In the hands of the public, cameras are like CCTV for brands

A reputation train crash is just a tweet away, but preparedness is key to a quick recovery.

Do you have bouncebackability? asks Chris Lee
Do you have bouncebackability? asks Chris Lee
Former Crystal Palace manager Iain Dowie first coined the phrase ‘bouncebackability’ to define how quickly his team could respond to the setback of defeat.

The same goes for crisis comms in the digital era where cameras give brands no place to hide.

Being caught on camera is nothing new, but the number of ‘eyes’ out there is ever increasing: helmet cams expose incidents with drivers of branded vehicles; drones intrude over celebrities’ properties; then there’s Google Glass – there’s a camera in the wrong place at the wrong time more often than not nowadays, posing an issue for brands in how they prepare to respond.

The BBC recently ran a huge piece on the future of news. Much of it is already here: the media carried over multiple channels and devices, and user-generated content increasingly at the core of the narrative. 
This in turn risks "magnifying problems of information inequality, misinformation, polarisation and disengagement," says the BBC.

In an industry where perception is everything, the camera never lies. That is our challenge. So what do can we do about it? 

There was no holiday spirit on show in one Walmart store just before Christmas when a video spread online showing a member of staff and a customer engaged in a brawl.  

To its credit, Walmart responded swiftly with HR action and a statement.

This came weeks after videos circulated showing fights during the Black Friday sales period at various stores, not just Walmart. Not a great look.

The upshot for PRs is we need to be more agile than ever as communicators – no one wants to learn how to handle a crisis in the middle of a storm. 

That’s why brands need to practise and stress test their protocols on a regular basis, especially when faced with the prospect of compromising footage circulating on the web.

It is tempting to overlook the value of fire drills, but without these practices we may well perish when it matters. 

Practice breeds confidence and increases the chances of a positive outcome. 

Brands need to simulate scenarios with the teams that will be on-hand, using crafted video content to most accurately animate a ‘real-life’ situation. 

Make that practice as real as possible: an overwhelming volume of phone calls to the PR team, misleading tweets, door-stepping journalists – simulate every possible event to build up confidence and make the protocol as familiar as second nature.

Analyse what worked, what didn’t and why. 

Change it and try again until all the key stakeholders are comfortable.

In an era of user-generated content there is no place to hide, but as the news agenda moves so fast the crowd will often soon move on quickly to the next interesting crisis. 

Do you have bouncebackability?

Chris Lee is head of digital knowledge at Grayling

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