The Top 5 Dos and Don’ts of Crisis Communications

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By Arleigh Vasconcellos, Principal | @ArleighGV

There’s a lot of things that can go horribly wrong with PR when you’re in the middle of a crisis. Communications messaging and the fine nuances around what spokespeople say in times of crisis for a company, brand, or event matter. That’s why we recommend that all companies put together a very basic crisis communications plan – it can be as simple as a few key messages on a piece of paper.

To avoid falling down the rabbit hole of misquotes, social media trolling, and general crisis management pitfalls, I’ve put together a quick list of the top dos and don’ts.

  1. Do create a basic crisis plan – this can be as quick and simple as three key points about your organization that a spokesperson can talk to. My only tip: avoid any messaging that is overly emotional, or that could be twisted into a biased or one-sided argument. Try as much as possible to remain neutral, unless of course that’s not your goal.
  2. Don’t respond to the comments section of an article or blog – unless you ABSOLUTELY must respond, try your hardest to stay out of the comments section as that’s where the Internet trolls live and you’ll never win. If you do have to respond, we recommend that you write an article, LinkedIn post, blog, or an open letter and post it on your own channels explaining your side of the story and turn the comments off.
  3. Do have a team of people who can work together to create messaging – they always say that two heads are better than one. This is especially true in times of crisis and PR. It is always good to have a sounding board to run your messaging and responses by before you push anything live. Sometimes that second voice of reason is the objective other viewpoint that will save you from saying something that can be taken completely out of context.
  4. Don’t keep talking about the crisis after it has blown over – most news cycles last 24 hours, some less, and if it’s a huge world affair, perhaps a week at most. This is something to always keep at the top of mind when you’re in the middle of the crisis and trying to wade your way through how to respond and what to say. Remember the acronym KISS – keep it simple, stupid. I use KISS in all of my crisis comms situations because it helps me to remember that I must respond to the incident as simply and quickly as possible and then move on, because it’s done. Don’t beat the “dead horse”.

And finally…

  1. Do remember that this too shall pass and no crisis is insurmountable – When you’re in the heat of a stressful situation, it seems like you, your brand, and your company will never recover. However, when dealt with professionally, but with empathy (not emotion, they are different), open communication, and solutions, a company can actually come out of a crisis situation stronger than before the figurative s#*t hit the fan.

Know some great examples of well-executed crisis communications? Share them with us in the comments below, or Tweet them to us @PRTheAgency.

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