Why a Crisis Management Plan?
Typically, the only time you think to prepare for an emergency is in the midst of one. During an earthquake, power outage, or critical medical incident, you might think, “I wish I had prepared better for this.”
Public relations and crisis management are exactly this same sentiment. When you’re hit by some bad PR, or your company is suddenly trending on Twitter for all the wrong reasons, you might think, “I wish I had prepared better for this.”
This is where a crisis management plan comes into play. A crisis management plan outlines how a business will respond during a crisis, and how to help navigate bad press and protect your reputation.
A crisis management plan also helps with customer retention and increasing brand awareness, both of which link back to profit. Yes, you read that right! A good publicity plan will make you money in the long run. And, even more importantly, it will help you avoid losing money from preventable situations.
When to Start a Crisis Management Plan?
Immediately! A crisis management plan is preemptive and helps secure your future. If you start a crisis management plan in the midst of a crisis, it’s far less effective and takes double the work to make up.
Part of the crisis management plan is to put out consistent positive stories about the company. For businesses that are not focusing on publicity in any way, one negative story can topple their reputation. For businesses that dedicate time and energy to public relations, they may have enough positive publicity that a crisis is minimized.
Picture it like this: you own a Facebook account but only post once every few years. Someone posts a horrible review on your account that goes viral. You can counter by posting tons of positive content on your account. But think about how much more effective it would be if you already had that strategy in place. A Facebook account with hundreds of posts can bury a bad story. A Facebook account with a dozen posts will be buried by a bad story.
So, yes, if you are a business owner, regardless of size, you should consider a crisis management plan. Especially for start-ups, as a company grows, you are bound to run into some snags. A smaller company may need a smaller scope for their plan, but a little goes a long way; several years down the line, you will be beyond thankful you took the steps early to prepare for a rainy day.
Where to Start
First off, you need to set up the proper chain of command for your company’s public relations. Crisis management deals with high-stress, high-risk situations that can spiral out of control rapidly. Because of this, you don’t always have the time to go back and forth and argue over who has the final say. A response may need to go out immediately. That’s why you should decide on day one who has final say over what you publish.
Besides having the key decision makers in place, you will want to make sure you have your kickass team to do the work. Especially in sensitive situations, you will want the right approach and wording to ensure the best message gets across.
1) Press releases. Your main bread and butter for a crisis management plan is press releases. A press release is news released by a company to inform the public of something noteworthy. For example, you might send out a press release announcing a new product, highlighting charity work, or promoting an upcoming company event.
The reason you need press releases is because it provides you positive press. When someone searches your company, the idea is for them to be flooded by all the good news. Then any bad PR is buried. Press releases are the #1 way to ensure a crisis stays contained.
2) Internal messaging. During a crisis, it’s essential to communicate. You need a strategy in place for how you will communicate to your team members — and even more importantly, how they will communicate to any customers or external people.
Internal messaging should contain the facts about the situation, including the company’s stance and plan for resolution. If there’s any information that should stay confidential, you will want to outline that in the message.
3) External messaging. During a crisis, you may need to communicate directly to your customers and address concerns. This type of communication is different from internal messaging, although the two may overlap.
In internal messaging, you are speaking to your employees to convey vital information and explain the company’s stance. In external messaging, you are speaking directly to your consumer base. Your employees may use your external messaging to respond to concerns through customer support or social media, whereas the internal messaging should remain internal.
The Services and Tools
Once you create the content, you need the tools and services to publish and track it. There are a variety of distribution services and monitoring tools out there, so you may need to do your own research to determine which is the best fit for you.
- Distribution service. Distribution services are the way you publish your content so the press can pick it up and get traction. Distributors connect journalists and media outlets to companies by circulating press releases through established networks.
While there are various options, here at Tuuti we use EIN Presswire. EIN is the world’s leading online newswire distribution service that reaches millions of journalists, businesses, and industry professionals.
- Monitoring tool. A monitoring tool is the next step. These tools provide reports and data related to brand management, media monitoring, media relations, social management, and more. With relevant keywords, you can monitor and analyze across broadcast, news, podcasts, print, and social media. A monitoring tool will alert you when someone mentions your brand or a certain hot-button keyword, so you can know immediately if you start trending in any way (good or bad).
You will find lots of tools to choose from, including Cision, Meltwater, Mention, Muck Rack, Prowly, etc. We’ve been around the block for PR, and have found Meltwater to be the best fit to monitor our own publicity, as well as our clients’.
- The best crisis management plan is preemptive. You start building your reputation in the press before a crisis hits, not after, so any negative news is easy to bury.
- Establishing a chain of command and key decision makers from day one is essential to your success. In crisis situations, one person should have the final decision on what to publish and how to resolve the issue.
- There are three major types of content you will produce as part of a crisis management plan: press releases, internal messaging, and external messaging.
- You will need both a distribution service and monitoring tool to get your story out into the media outlets, as well as track how your brand is being talked about in the various channels.
- A good crisis management plan will build your reputation, foster good will in your community and with your consumer base, and help mitigate any negative publicity. Down the line, crisis management makes a huge difference in profitability, branding, and longevity as a company.