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Crisis Communications Insights Report

Avoiding a crisis situation is a little bit like winning the lottery. You’re lucky if it happens to you, but let’s face it, it’s probably not happening to you.

Most companies are bound to have a small crisis every now and again, and if you don’t play your cards right (cough*NFL*cough), you can have one of these very fun little PR situations just about every few weeks. When it rains it pours in the world of crisis comm.

Working in crisis communications, we've developed a bit of an addiction to following these situations – and watching how they play out. It’s sort of a hobby. Keeping our pulse on unfolding crises help us become better at our jobs. And we’re totally into that.

So we think nothing—absolutely nothing—of spending our mornings scanning the news and sending around links of what went well, what went kind of terrible and what went particularly awful. In fact, throughout the entirety of 2014, we indexed hundreds of crisis situations including the best –and the absolute worst—responses. There were some serious doozies.

When you talk about crisis as much as we do, you start to see certain patterns that paint a bigger picture of the crisis communications landscape. What that looks like now – and what it will look like in the future. So for your reading (and preparing!) pleasure, we put together a list of what we see for 2015 – the types of crises we know are coming and the ways the best communicators will respond to them. We made sure to make it a super quick read, with nice graphics and tons of great examples from last year’s fiascoes. Sounds awesome, right? Read away!

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Crisis Communications Insights Report

  1. 1. 2015: CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS INSIGHTS REPORT Here at Epic – we don’t have a crystal ball – but we do have an idea of what our clients need to keep their eyes and ears open for in 2015.
  2. 2. Insights: Insights are about staying ahead of the curve, understanding your market and identifying issues and opportunities before it’s too late. Our insights will help you spot potential crises and make moves to prevent issues from becoming unsolvable. These insights can help you: SHAPE HOW YOU PREPARE PLAN AND BUDGET FOR THE UNEXPECTED FIND OPPORTUNITY PROTECT YOUR BRAND REPUTATION CRAFT A HUMAN RESPONSE
  3. 3. MYTHS: Myths are those false ideas organizations have that misguide how a crisis is handled–large or small.With no shortage of crisis advice out there–we wanted to start with the biggest myths of them all–so you’re not only able to avoid them, but you find your move for the best way to combat them when dealing with a crisis. Do these myths sound familiar? SPIN IS IN IGNORE THE HATERS WHAT HAPPENS INTERNALLY STAYS INTERNAL THE MEDIA WILL WAIT IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU
  5. 5. Insight #1: DISRUPTIVE TRANSPARENCY The truth always comes out. You can either get ahead of it–and provide an immediate level of honesty and transparency–or you can leave out some of the facts and risk an even greater chance of permanent brand damage. A crisis can erupt for any number of reasons within an organization–product recalls, misconduct allegations, organizational changes, but one thing remains certain: the easiest way to mitigate long-term brand damage is a commitment to transparency right off the bat.
  6. 6. Proof #1: GET THE REAL TASTE In the past, corporations detested the idea of being transparent and preferred their secrecy in order to keep a competitive edge (think the Coca-Cola formula or KFC secret recipe). Today, household names like McDonald’s are adopting transparency into their operations to bridge the gap between big business and consumers. The fast food chain’s “Our Food, Your Questions” campaign encourages everyday people to ask probing questions about the food, the company and its practices. In the not-so-distant- future, McDonald’s move into transparency won’t be cutting-edge but the expected norm.
  7. 7. Proof #2: SACK THE TRUTH For years, the National Football League (NFL) got away with sweeping scandals under the rug to protect the league’s and players’ reputation. Now, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL members and leadership are paying the price for their glaring misconduct in the handling of Ray Rice’s assault of Janay Palmer Rice. We predict that the NFL will be in for a rough road ahead if it doesn’t learn from past experiences and maintain an upfront, forthcoming and comprehensive approach to its communications surrounding any player or potential misconduct. Deflate-gate anyone?
  8. 8. Your Move: BE OPEN. Like your mother always said – honesty is the best policy. Whether you’re announcing a big change – or responding to backlash, be transparent. Expect that some people may not be happy with your move, but make sure you’ve covered your bases. Did you have a specific process in place to make the change? Are you sharing details on an ongoing basis as they become available? Make sure you communicate, you’re clear about your actions and always be prepared to respond to backlash before you make the announcement.
  9. 9. Insight #2: RISE OF THE CONTRARIAN
  10. 10. Insight #2: RISE OF THE CONTRARIAN Peopleineveryindustrywillstarttoassertmoreunpopular opinions to get noticed in a noisy social world. This will impact companies and organizations that aren’t listening and responding quickly enough to issues that arise as a result of these pesky pot-stirrers.
  11. 11. Proof #1: CHEMICAL ROMANCE In the 1950s and 60s “caloric-saving” breakthroughs helped put Diet Coke on the map as a weight-watching alternative to the original Coke. Now food vigilantes, like the Food Babe, are poking holes in the United States’ chemically enhanced dietary habits with activist blogging. This year you will see more brands take a page from the activist book and adopt a more polarizing market position for maximum impact.
  12. 12. Proof #2: ROOM FOR ACCEPTANCE Grassroots activists used to organize local demonstrations to push an issue to the forefront – the internet has made that a thing of the past. Take the LBGT community boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel. The gay community denounced the old Hollywood establishment because of its owner’s position on anti-gay legislation. The Sultan of Brunei ignored the protests, thinking it would go away, failing to respond and minimizing the issue. It wasn’t long after that celebrities and other supporters joined in to support the LBGT’s community’s effort, making international headlines. It goes to show you that no matter how big or small an issue might seem, not responding once a story has gone viral is no longer an effective strategy.
  13. 13. Your Move: BE AWARE. Understand that everyone has their pot-stirrers, but it’s important to keep your pulse them. What may seem like one noisy critic can quickly escalate if not addressed in a timely manner.
  14. 14. Insight #3: KNOW YOUR FRENEMIES
  15. 15. Insight #3: KNOW YOUR FRENEMIES From employee backlash over layoffs to member departures over unaddressed concerns, we’ve seen it all this year. Things are hard to keep quiet these days. With social tools that allow seemingly small populations to have large voices, what may seem like a small internal issue can have big time repercussions.
  16. 16. Proof #1: PROBLEMATIC PYRAMID Morethanacenturyago,Avonwasafounderandsupporter of the Direct Selling Association (DSA). Fast-forward and once again Avon is leading the way – but in the opposite direction. In 2014, Avon terminated its membership with DSA and wrote a letter to existing members to consider the same move after accusing DSA of promoting pyramid schemes. While there has been no further publicized exits from the DSA, in the future the association will no doubt pay greater heed to its members’ concerns and manage them accordingly.
  17. 17. Proof #2: INTO THE FOXHOLE When the company behind one of the most popular internet browsers, Mozilla, named its new CEO, Brendan Eich, it was no secret than he came with an unpopular decision from his past. He had donated $1,000 to California’s Proposition 8, a failed attempt to ban same- sex marriage in the state. While we’re sure the company expected some public backlash, what they hadn’t planned on was the public-facing objections they would receive from their own employees, who started a social media campaign asking the CEO to step down.
  18. 18. Your Move: BE REAL. Don’t ignore small internal concerns -- they can easily become much larger issues. Know where your employees and members stand and realize that if you don’t respond to their quiet concerns, they may choose to make an issue much louder. They won’t always have your back if you don’t have theirs.
  19. 19. Insight #4: GET REAL-TIME OR GET LOST
  20. 20. Insight #4: GET REAL-TIME OR GET LOST If marketing is a race and you’re not leading the pack– then you’re just lost in the crowd. Adopting a real-time response culture at your organization is key to leading the public conversation in your direction.
  21. 21. Proof #1: TAKE FLIGHT Gone are the days when organizations had hours, and sometimes days, to prepare a public response for a crisis. In today’s instant-gratification world, what you say, and don’t say, in the face of a crisis can make or break how you are portrayed in the media – No one understands this more than AirAsia’s CEO Tony Fernandes. Following the news of the lost AirAsia Flight 8501, Fernandes was quick to respond. He was applauded for his personal briefings to the families of those onboard the flight and his use of Twitter to keep the media and consumers in the loop. As the C-suite evolves, leadership will not only be charged with making smart business decisions, but with also knowing how to provide a leading, real-time response in the face of a crisis.
  22. 22. Proof #2: HOT ZONE You used to have to wait for the morning paper delivery to know what was going on in the world. With the advent of the 24/7 news cycle and the internet, regular news updates can be pushed out in real-time to targeted audiences. Consider the Emergency Nurses Association’s (ENA) quick and nimble response to the Ebola outbreak. Within a couple of hours, ENA had notifications up on their website, sent recommended practices and procedures to its members and provided support for the headlining new stories at all the major outlets. Associations in-the-know will follow ENA’s lead for how to respond to a crisis in real-time and position themselves as THE go-to source.
  23. 23. Your Move: BE PREPARED. Have a plan in place to respond to a crisis before it happens. Drill your leadership and create a rapid response team that knows how to be nimble when stakes are high. Understand when you’re response is central to the crisis at hand–and when it’s not–and have a streamlined approval process in place to expedite the crisis response.
  24. 24. Insight #5: MEDITATE ON MINDFULNESS
  25. 25. Insight #5: MEDITATE ON MINDFULNESS With opportunity comes great responsibility. Some events that look like a crisis are really the world responding positively to your brand. The most equipped organizations are practiced at maintaining a non-judgemental posture for their brand even in a the face of change brought on by consumer engagement.
  26. 26. Proof #1: BLAST OFF Before the rise of the internet, social media and paparazzi, large corporations and personalities were afforded some privacy while facing a crisis. Now, the curtains have been pulled back on the entrepreneurs and moguls of the world and all of their crisis management is exposed. For instance, public figure Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic’s CEO, has an active presence on social media–so when the company’s first commercial manned space flight, SpaceShip2, exploded over the Mojave Desert, it was imperative Branson respond. His tweets and communications with the public, Virgin Galactic’s staff and the media contained vital information, but more importantly a mindfulness for all those involved. As communication continues to move into the next frontier, the divide between organizations and their leadership will shrink and emotional awareness will be central to crisis response.
  27. 27. Proof #2: FRIDGID LUCK The Ice Bucket Challenge to promote awareness for Lou Gehrig’s disease became a worldwide sensation this year, helping raise more than $5.5 million in donations for the ALS Association (ALSA). ALSA’s CEO, Barbara Newhouse, did not have a mindful response. She was quoted saying the following about the challenge: “I have not seen anything like this in the nonprofit space outside of a disaster” and “they [staff] are all operating on high levels of adrenaline here–and sugar, because I make sure we have plenty of doughnuts and coffee.” Newhouse was far from focused with her response and missed the opportunity to thank people for their support and educate the public on the disease. In the future, ALSA and other associations in a similar position need to reflect what the world is saying and doing about their cause, find focus and show more mindfulness in the moment.
  28. 28. Your Move: BE HUMAN. A swift response is key when facing a crisis–but before you say anything–consider ALL of your stakeholders and know what message you want to send. Information is important, but always be sure to acknowledge and focus on the human impact.
  29. 29. Resource Links:
  30. 30. Thank you. BE YOU. At Epic, we know it takes a lot more than what you say to activate your audience and advance your promise. The expression of your purpose and position in the market is important. How you say it, when you say it and how it manifests visually can differentiate you in the crowded landscape. We bring brands to life through the creation and cultivation of an organization’s internal, external and visual voice.Whether we’re training staff on how to talk about their organization, implementing a comprehensive PR strategy for attracting media attention or refreshing an outdated identity package, we ensure our client’s driving force is brought to life. WWW.EPICPRGROUP.COM