Crisis Communications

Murphy’s Law, Your Business & Pending Doom

We are all too familiar with Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong, will absolutely go wrong. If you are reading this article on a desktop, your system could crash at any given moment leaving you without technology for a lengthy amount of time. Reading this on a phone? At any point, you can drop that device and shatter your screen forever. Are you a part of a business? At any point, crisis can hit and completely destroy the company leaving you jobless and many people negatively affected by the repercussions of shutdown.

Ok, ok, that was a little dramatic and maybe a bit far fetched. But, with upgrades in technology and the rapidly changing news landscape, it is more important now than ever to be ready for crisis at any moment.

Turn Back Time

Not too long ago, crisis communications was only handled via internal communications and press releases to media outlets. You had time to craft a perfect statement and submit it before the article ran. On the flip side, many companies would have a crisis and remain blissfully ignorant to the fact that the crisis was public until they picked up a copy of the local paper and saw their name on a headline.

Fast Forward a Decade

Now, this idea sounds so foreign. With social media, all news is updated and spread in real time. Not only are you monitoring what the media is saying about your company, but you also get to see what the public is saying. You also can respond and further the conversation through your own platforms.

I’m a communications professional, and even I will admit that is a lot to keep up with. But by understanding Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong, will absolutely go wrong), you can be better prepared for this moment. I honestly believe that in today’s environment, a business will not be able to gracefully withstand a crisis without a pre-written, comprehensive crisis communications plan.

Dooms Day Prepping

This plan is meant to be a living document with a list of crisis scenarios and actions for how your company should respond. Whether it’s writing an initial press statement for traditional and social media outlets, or replacing the company website with a landing page, this document should outline a step-by-step guide to follow when crisis hits.

The first step to writing a crisis communications plan? Think of all of the scenarios that can go wrong. Maybe it’s a computer hacker going into your system and stealing all your customers’ personal and private information. It could be a fire destroying your facility, or even an onsite death. After creating this list, start deciding what type of crisis would require the most work, and start making lists of tasks that would need to happen if the crisis were to hit. Here is a checklist of things to consider when creating tasks for a crisis:

  • Would the media be involved? If so, prepare a statement or prep for an interview.
  • Will it affect your customers? Begin drafting messaging specifically to them.
  • Will it affect your employees? Create a plan to effectively communicate with them and identify which platforms you will use to communicate.
  • How do you plan to communicate and address the crisis on social media?
  • Will this crisis increase web traffic? If so, you may want to shut down the site and implement a landing page.
  • After the dust settles, how will you regain support and trust?

Avoid the Spiral

But why would you put this negative energy out into the universe? Because a crisis, whether large or small, can spiral out of control quickly. And in today’s world, the public demands answers and an explanation. If you don’t tell your side of the story when times are bad, why would they trust you if times are good? Unfortunately, not handling a crisis effectively can leave a longstanding bad reputation. The public doesn’t care if it was a one-time accident, or one bad employee or one little oil spill. All they care about is a company not addressing and correcting the problem.

“You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. That’s what public relations is all about.”  – Kristin Bell, You Again.

Not only has the way we prepare for a crisis shifted, but the way we respond to media and other external forces has changed thanks to the age of social media. Remember hearing that it’s never acceptable to apologize because it admits fault? Today, consumers rely on 100% transparency. Were you in the wrong? Own it and apologize to the public and inform them about how you plan to change. Were you not in the wrong, but upset about something that happened? Say it. If your statements and interviews do not come across as genuine and sincere, your entire crisis plan could quickly unravel.

Start Writing

If this article put a pit in your stomach, that means it’s time to start drafting your plan and expecting the worst. However, writing a crisis plan can be time intensive and intellectually draining.

When I start drafting a plan for my clients. I usually dedicate one afternoon each week over the span of one month to write different sections of the plan. This way, I can give the plan my full attention with limited distractions. This helps me create the best possible product that my client can implement with ease. By spreading out the work over a longer period of time, you have lots of time to ponder and think of different things that need to be included. Also, it’s a good idea to review a crisis communications plan at least annually with your executive and communications teams.

Of course, it’s great to review and to even practice crisis interviews with your team so it stays fresh. But when implementing a crisis plan, it’s important to be flexible knowing things can change in a moment’s time. Use this plan as more of a guide that can be customized on the spot.

Because anything that can go wrong, will absolutely go terribly wrong, it’s never too soon to get started on your plan. If you need help writing a crisis communications plan or if you are interested in crisis communications training, contact us and we can help you prepare for Murphy’s Law.