After the events of last year, it should come as no surprise that 73 percent of respondents to a survey run by Agility PR Solutions said that crisis communications has become more important to PR. Most crises won’t steal the headlines the way COVID-19 has, but that doesn’t make them any less detrimental to the person, brand, or company facing them.
Analysis of the survey results revealed three major crisis comms challenges that PR pros continue to face in 2021:
Getting everyone on board
How you prepare for a crisis determines how well and quickly you bounce back. In this essential stage, respondents expressed difficulty getting clients and leadership to prioritize planning. You may need to help your clients or leadership navigate significant mental barriers, which could include:
The discomfort that talking about potential crisis situations causes
The idea that the brand is untouchable
The misconception that there’s no point in preparing for the unexpected
Getting opt-in by the powers that be can be difficult, but it is critical. A thorough plan and time dedicated to practicing it may not prevent a crisis, but it will ensure your response is quicker and more efficient, resulting in better brand resiliency.
Knowing how and when to respond
To craft an appropriate first response, you usually need a bit of time to conduct a fact-finding mission. Unfortunately, during a crisis, time is at a premium and delaying your response runs the risk of the wrong narrative making it to the media first.
Whatever you decide and however you play it (since every crisis is unique) make sure that your message is consistent across all your channels and departments.
When to respond is just the first half of the challenge—the second half is how to respond. Crisis comms experts tout the benefit and need to be authentic and open. Survey answers revealed that convincing your clients of this can be at odds with their desire to sanitize the situation.
The facelessness of social media
The final trend is the escalation and de-escalation of a crisis on social media. These platforms provide users a nearly unlimited ability to say whatever they want, whenever they want. The result is a faceless “mob” that isn’t limited by geographical bounds and the spread of false headlines, misinformation, and negative comments.
You can almost immediately lose control of a situation on social media if you don’t employ a proper strategy. Most PR pros will tell you that ignoring it entirely is not the right call, while at the same time, responding to every comment may also not be the right solution (and require diverting too many resources). You may find that reaching out to the most vocal detractors is the correct approach for your crisis or maybe it’s responding to commenters with a link to prepared key messages and more information.
We don’t claim to be crisis experts at Agility, but we’re fortunate that we get to partner with them in the first Crisis Comms Mastery virtual summit. On March 25 and 26, registrants will learn from 15+ crisis comms experts on how to put a plan in place, get leadership buy-in, respond appropriately, and use social media to de-escalate a crisis—among other topics. The conference is free and there’s no fixed schedule. Choose the presentations you want to watch at a time that works for you.
Joy Knowles is the Marketing Content Strategist at Agility PR Solutions, a software solutions provider that helps PR pros generate and monitor media coverage, measure results, and demonstrate their value. Joy has been part of several internal communications teams during her career, helping to grow the companies’ client and customer bases through strategic communications, content planning and creation, social media management, and project and client management.