crisis communications

Chicken Little was Ready in Case the Sky Fell. Why Businesses Should Prepare too.

By Karen Carrera, Senior Account Executive, TrizCom PR

Chicken Little gif from  giphy.com

Chicken Little gif from giphy.com

Smart phones and social media. Those two things are why every business should have a crisis plan in place. Why? In addition to media exposure, smart phones and social have empowered today’s “citizen journalists,” and the internet can spread a story in seconds. What’s worse, truth doesn’t always seem to matter if the story is interesting and the video compelling.

It’s easy to see why a large airliner, construction company or food distribution company has much more risk and the need for a crisis – or reputation management – plan. But if you are providing any kind of public service, thinking through what might happen and what you’re going to do is a wise decision. You might feel a little like Chicken Little – and sometimes the boss doesn’t want to hear about what might go wrong – but it’s always better to be prepared.

What questions should you ask during this process?

1)      What is the worst that could happen? This exercise will help you understand your weak spots, spell out why you need to be better prepared, and erase the element of surprise when something does go wrong.

2)      When something happens, who should I call? My recommendation is to always have legal and public relations representation on speed dial. That way, when something happens, instead of wasting time thinking through who to call, you know exactly who to call. Also, if the incident spirals than you will have help for both the courtroom jury and the jury of public perception.

3)      Why should I invest in PR and social media? Practitioners will tell you that both social media and PR take time and effort – neither can expect overnight results. When a company calls me out of the blue because they’ve had a crisis event, it’s much harder to get traction if we’re starting with nothing in place. Reputations are made over time, and if you aren’t building good will and engaging with reporters and customers, you leave yourself completely bare.

4)      Do I need legal advice? A lawyer can assess your risk and advise what you need to put in place to show “due diligence.” For example, if you provide an entertainment venue for minors – arcade games, put-put golf, bumper cars – it would be important to make sure that all employees are background checked to ensure you aren’t exposing children to a predator. And if an accusation does come up, you can prove that you have a robust process in place.

5)      How might incidents escalate? Not all do, but there is a huge possibility that once the thread frays, it easily unravels. For example, if an employee claims sexual harassment, many times other employees are emboldened to step forward with similar claims. Now there is a pattern – a story much harder to fight.

Companies that are ill-prepared are always surprisingly shocked when a crisis event occurs. But crises are nearly always predictable – maybe not exact circumstances, but you can hit pretty close to the general topic: contamination, injury or fatality, employee theft, sexual harassment. The list is similar from company to company, depending on the industry. And when you can predict something might happen, you can plan for it as well. And in the end, as unappreciated as Chicken Little was – he was right.

Why Brands Need To Care What Is Being Said About Them

By Jo Trizila, CEO of TrizCom Public Relations and Pitch PR

One of my favorite quotes in PR was said by Warren Buffet: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do it differently.”

Many times the brands whose reputations were destroyed overnight could have minimized the catastrophic events simply by pulling their head out of the sand and dealing with the situation. Of course, communication and planning help too.

In the past 12 months, we have seen a fair share of brands who didn’t handle their crisis very well. Often what began as issues that weren’t attended to blew up into full-scale crisis events. I don’t even have to say why they made this list because we all know why!

  • Uber
  • United Airlines
  • Galaxy Note 7 phones
  • Wells Fargo
  • Pepsi
  • Chipotle
  • Mylan’s EpiPen
  • Bill Cosby
  • Tesla
  • Yahoo!

On June 14, Clutch – a leading software and professional services firm – released an extremely interesting survey, Measuring Brand Perception and the Effect of PR.

Clutch’s key findings:

  • 52 percent of consumers spend the most time using social media, allowing for opinions to change and news to travel quickly
  • Nearly 20 percent of consumers are wary of making high cost purchases from brands with negative press
  • News stories about companies have an impact on the way those brands are perceived by consumers – in fact, 46 percent of consumers who identified United Airlines as a brand with negative press also have a negative perception of that brand 

(Source: Clutch: https://clutch.co/pr-firms/resources/measuring-brand-perception-effect-of-pr)

We all know the media landscape is changing. Back when I was in college, I studied abroad in London, and I felt so disconnected. There were no smartphones. There was really no internet. Email had just started, but I didn’t have an email account. CNN was great, but I couldn’t afford cable. I depended on the student union’s subscription to USA Today to get my news. Fast forward 20 some odd years – we all have smartphones, we all have multiple email accounts, many have tablets, computers, televisions with internet access. We have multiple social media logins; most have cable and many office buildings even have headline news in elevators. Many haven’t read USA Today in years. In fact, subscriptions to print magazines and newspapers are at an all-time low. Simply put, we get our news differently, and more importantly, many of us have turned into spot journalists and post this news on our social channels. For brands, this is terrifying. News travels at lightening speed.

Clutch reports that the most commonly used media outlets today are social media (52 percent), broadcast media (22 percent), digital media (18 percent) and print media (8 percent). When a negative story goes viral, how does this affect consumers’ perception? According to Clutch, when negative news about a particular brand is brought to consumers’ attention, opinions of those brands change.

Think about it: As a consumer, if you had the choice to fly Southwest Airlines or United Airlines, which one would you choose? I haven’t seen a person being dragged off a Southwest Airlines flight recently. If you were taking your children out to eat, would you pick a restaurant that’s in the news for contaminated food? I wouldn’t.

“Perceptions of a brand also feed directly into consumers’ likelihood to purchase that company’s products. The way these opinions change is conducive to many factors, and it even varies between low and high cost purchases,” reports Clutch.

I’ve said this many times and can’t say it enough: public relations is one of the most effective uses of a brand’s budget – period. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Having a plan in place for not only the good news but also the bad is more imperative now than ever. I see, over and over, brands bury one’s head in the sand and ignore or hide from the obvious signs of danger. Brands are afraid to admit they were wrong. They blame the customer for negative reviews. Brands hire interns to run their social media. They ignore online reviews.

But it’s not just reviews. Remember when I mentioned that everyone has a smartphone now? People record what’s happening right in front of them and post the videos online. When the evidence of wrongdoing (even perceived) is right there in living color, it’s difficult to deny.

Reputation and crisis management need to be a top concern for CEOs across the board.

I love what a fellow crisis communication expert and speaker, Andy Gilman, has said, “The secret of crisis management is not good vs. bad, it’s preventing the bad from getting worse.” Bad things are going to happen to every company. Of course, they vary in their magnitude, but they are going to happen. From a slip and fall to executive misconduct to natural disasters to fraud to arrests to investigations to computer viruses – know your vulnerabilities and have a plan to protect the brand.

If your company doesn’t already have a social media policy and a crisis communication plan in place, I beg you to consider doing this now. Hire an expert to come in and help you assess your company’s vulnerabilities, and create and put a plan in place so that when it does happen to your company (and it will at some point), you have a roadmap to help guide you when the tornado hits.

Being prepared for a PR crisis in today’s climate is just as important as having an emergency preparedness or disaster recovery plan for your business. While communication is a part of those plans, dealing with a PR crisis/social media is not the same and requires a separate plan. Without one, your company risks a major storm of negativity that could be difficult to recover from as a result of doing nothing, playing the blame game or – just as bad – doing too little too late.

 

Crisis Social Media – You Need to Have a Plan

By Jo Trizila, President and CEO, TrizCom PR

Every business should have a crisis management plan and a social media crisis plan. The strategy will be similar but different tactics.

It can take a brand years to build its reputation, yet it can be destroyed in seconds.

It is not a matter of if your company/brand will face a crisis but rather when it will face a crisis. Preparation will either make or break your brand reputation. Nowadays, crises seem to happen, or rather break, online first and then spread to traditional media.

It really doesn’t matter, in my opinion, what the crisis scenario is: having a social and traditional plan in place is key. Just as a traditional crisis plan is never final, a social crisis plan is never final.

o    The crisis communication plan approach:

§    Anticipate

§    Prepare

§    Respond

§    Evaluate

 o   Social media crisis plans should include:

§    Identification of the social crisis team

§    Social spokesperson identified

§    Identify social crisis command center (this is key – if something happens to your headquarters, where you will be posting/responding from?)

§    Identify target audiences for various anticipated scenarios

§    Company “media policy” procedures and protocol (include: Social Communication Policy, Company Statement and Social Communications Process)

§    Response plan (who, what, when, where, how and situational assessment)

§    Social media asset inventory (what social channels do you have? where are the passwords kept?) – IMPORTANT: this also includes any prescheduled social posts you may have. (This happened in Texas last year. The Lt. Gov. had a prescheduled tweet “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” This tweet was sent out following the Florida gay nightclub attack. Many people believed that it was an attack against the LGBT community. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick claimed that it was prescheduled and pulled the tweet – though the damage had already been done.)

§    Preapproved company statements and key messages (internal & external) Keep in mind, transparency AND honesty are key. If you have been hacked, if someone made a mistake and/or if the fault is yours, OWN IT and admit it. Your followers recognize that mistakes happen, but when it takes a brand an hour to respond or if they hide/deny, they will come out looking like a brand that does not care.

§    Social media Crisis Communication check list

§    Social media monitoring tools inventory

§    Contacting process (who contacts who to advise on crisis)

§    Testing

§    Social media role playing

§    Sharing the social crisis plan to stakeholders

Educate yourself on what is an issue and what is a full blown crisis. So many crisis situations we work on started off as issues. Issues are much easier to control.

Speed is imperative. Since most crisis situations today break on social, brands have to respond quickly. The slower a brand is to respond to a crisis, the more assumptions are made and the faster it spreads.

Many times in crisis situations, brands either say way too much or say nothing at all. Know your messages/statements inside and out. Practice. Practice. Practice.

In addition to your crisis plan, companies should also develop a social media crisis plan. The message/statement does not change.

National Crisis – turn off Auto-Posts: see example above with Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

Tell the truth. As Steve Jobs said, “To me a brand is one simple thing and that is trust.”

You have to practice/test your crisis social communication plan. Think of a fire drill. You have an exit plan that is circulated throughout the office, you practice your evacuation route a couple of times a year, and you revise accordingly. This is how brands should think of their crisis plan. Unfortunately, many businesses pay for a top notch plan and then put it on a shelf and don’t ever look at it until they need it.

At TrizCom PR, we specialize in issues and crisis communication. If you are in need of a plan or a reactive response please contact me, Jo Trizila. I answerer my phone and check email 24/7. jo@trizcom.com o) 972-247-1369 c) 214-232-0078.

 

Not the Vacation I Planned: Tragedy Transitions Vacationing PR Pro into Media Relations Juggernaut

Not the Vacation I Planned: Tragedy Transitions Vacationing PR Pro into Media Relations Juggernaut

My account of what happened on our Carnival Liberty vacation and the tips for conducting spot news during a breaking news story....Bulldog Reporter: Not the Vacation I Planned: Tragedy Transitions Vacationing PR Pro Into Media Relations Juggernaut.

 

OU and SAE, the national organization, got it right

By: Karen Carrera, TrizCom PR

The University of Oklahoma and the national Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity get kudos for their handling the horrific video of hateful racial slurs made on a party bus of immature frat boys and their dates.

It’s unimaginable that in 2015 these kids think that the song is OK. Well it’s not. The university and national chapter should be proud of the way they handled the initial stage of the crisis by sending a swift, severe zero tolerance message:

  • Your behavior is not acceptable.
  • We are closing your doors.
  • We are launching an investigation.

 In addition to a strong, proactive message, other lessons learned include:

  • Respond channel to channel during a crisis. The video was originally brought to light on social media channels. The university president responded on Twitter in less than an hour.
  • Time is of the essence. Monitor your social channels – people expect a reply in 60 minutes, some studies show.
  • Cameras are everywhere. Expect horrid behavior to be captured on someone’s smart phone and shared over social. It’s going to happen.
  • If you act a certain way, people are going to talk about you. Any organization – corporate or non-profit – should use this video as a learning tool. There should be policies in place, people should be educated on what’s expected, and immediate consequences should be in place.

About TrizCom Public Relations

From national industry leaders and Dallas-Fort Worth’s largest companies to startups and growing enterprises, TrizCom PR provides public relations and social media services to a wide variety of businesses encompassing startup, healthcare, lifestyle brands, B2B, energy, tech, entertainment, food/beverage and beyond. TrizCom PR has a dynamic track record of local, regional, national and international media placements on behalf of its clients that, if monetized, would equal hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2014 and 2015, TrizCom PR has been named in the top 25 of PR Firms by Dallas Business Journal. TrizCom PR is a Certified Woman Owned Business Corporation (NWBOC). For more information on TrizCom PR call 972-247-1369 or visit www.TrizCom.com

Karen’s contact information:
O: 972-247-1369
C: 972-207-1935
E: Karen@TrizCom.com