There are many layers to external communication in regards to crisis communication management. Depending on the origination of the situation, the use of social media as a tool to control the narrative and redirect public opinion. From this week’s discussions and readings, I have come up with the following tips to prepare for resolution when in crisis.
Before Crisis Occurs
Let’s say you’re hired to join a crisis management team and develop a plan. When entering a new organization, the first step is to learn the history and perception of the organization, both internally and externally. This knowledge will aid in understanding what is necessary to include in the crisis plan. You need to know what factors contribute to a situation going awry based on staff morale and any positive or negative circumstances that may already define the value system of the company (i.e., what inadequacies could turn into potential crisis). Knowing the shortcomings help to get ahead of the issue before it arises. As a strategic communicator, it is your responsibility to evaluate the plans that are currently in place and initiate further segmentation to ensure the crisis plan in on par with other like organizations.
Social Media and Crisis
Public opinion forces corporations to respond with haste, whereas before social media, there was not a medium to air grievances in real-time. It is essential organizations develop crisis management plans that incorporate social media content. With accessibility to the internet and social media, there is increased awareness of incidents with little or no attention by traditional media, and it can lead to public outcry. Ultimately, every social media outlet is not conducive for every corporation when addressing incidents, so it is up to the strategic communications team to decide the priority of each platform. Whatever outlet(s) are seen as to have the most traffic is where they should go to target their audiences. Companies have been set on the traditional route in responding to issues, and they must adapt their communication strategies to remain favorable in the eyes of consumers.
Controlling the Narrative
As mentioned before, a designated team for external communications is necessary to guarantee the same message is communicated across all outlets. Having a unified, clear message for the public maintains trust in the companies abilities to diffuse the issue accordingly. It is best to communicate directly with the press so that nothing is lost in translation from a third party crisis management company. Thoroughly convey the same message also lessens the possibility of rumors. By not correctly planning how to respond immediately after an incident occurs, a corporation loses control of the situation. Releasing a statement to address any misconduct while a formal investigation takes place allows the public to feel included in the matter. A significant challenge the digital age presents is the transmission of opinion and misinformation. Instead of addressing the facts, untruths can be created to sensationalize what occurred or frankly fabricate a new story. This leads to the public having incorrect information or forming opinions without being given the proper information.
It is also crucial that as the person playing the neutral party, we should always remove personal feelings from the equation and deliver what is asked. As humans, we forget how close to home some situations can resonate and can impede our rationale. It is essential to remain neutral when identifying possible solutions. This also means thoroughly investigating all sides of the case and researching what other companies have done in similar scenarios.
Taking A Side
One implication of choosing a side on a social issue is the backlash from an opposing group. Depending on which side of most of the stakeholders are, that could be detrimental to business and lead to a negative response. Additionally, it can be even more damaging to a company that does not take a side at all on social issues. A company that does not stand for anything will allow the public to control their narrative and define their brand. Decision-makers and communicators should weigh the options before taking a position and choose the decision that is most beneficial to the public and socially responsible.