Crisis Management Messaging
Companies utilize PR and marketing to reach their clients to share news of expansion, new product launches or to engage with customers to build their brand. They have tools in place across a myriad of platforms. PR and Marketing departments plan campaigns and communications for months and can pull from data analytics and customer insight to craft their message proactively to tell the story of their brand.
The one area of the toolbox that often seems to be empty is the response to crisis. No company wants to think about facing challenges or crisis that could damage their brand, but having communication templates and an executable plan in place, before it’s needed, is essential to crisis management messaging.
At a recent Ad Age Survival Summit, several brand leaders and crisis experts from Fortune 100 brands were on hand to talk about how to handle crisis management messaging and gave key pieces of advice about what to do—and what not to do—when a problem rears its head. Their advice echoed many of the strategic points we discuss with our clients when a crisis arises (1):
- Be prepared – act quickly and be transparent before it escalates
- Get everyone on board – mobilize your employees as part of an early warning system and give them talking points and social media guidelines to follow so that your brand response is consistent
- Don’t be insular – Communicate with partners on potential moves, surround yourself with agency partners to get different perspectives and points of view
The biggest mistake a company can make when trying to respond to a brand crisis it to not respond fast enough. Often an internal paralysis takes hold that prevents the company from engaging in the conversation because they haven’t planned for a crisis and don’t have the tools ready to do so. Responding quickly with all the information you have available at that time shows you are working on a solution.
During a crisis situation, work and communication begin to move at an accelerated pace. Whether the issue is employee focused or consumer facing, it is critical that the integrity of the brand is maintained and protected in all communications formats. Things to consider during these scenarios include:
- How to present crisis management messaging and content in relation to the parent brand?
- Does the crisis take on a unique look/feel that distances the parent brand?
- How are your audiences consuming content? Are they mobile? Will they even see an email or a press release? Are you reaching them at the right time and in the right place?
- With any crisis, customers, employees and the media will visit your website. Is it ready? Is your infrastructure up for a crush of web traffic?
While we often think of our customers and the media as the first people we need to communicate with in a crisis, your internal audiences should be the first people you talk to. Making sure your executives, management, and staff at all levels are told of the issue and provided with information helps for smooth sailing going forward. This helps to prevent miscommunication coming from your own staff, stops rumors and confusion among your team, and eases minds that a resolution is on the way. Emails to team members are a quick, easy way to reach those with access. However many companies have employees that aren’t connected by email. Proactively thinking about how you can communicate with them will help ensure no one is left out of the crisis management messaging cycle.
At Ballyhoo we’re experienced in working with C-suite executives to outline and design a communications delivery strategy that will get information in the hands of the right audiences in a timely and meaningful way. Identifying the different groups of internal audiences that you need to reach helps you understand how they currently interact with your communications team and how you can reach them quickly in times of crisis.
Needless to say, with any of these scenarios, advance planning is imperative. Trying to solve these creative challenges in the middle of a crisis takes away from a communicator’s ability to truly focus on the audience, messaging, and brand protection that is needed.
Now is the time to talk with your communications team and strategic agency partners to discuss what tools you have in place to support your team when crisis hits. At Ballyhoo we’d love to talk with you about some of the crisis we’ve helped clients face down.