Be Prepared for Crisis

Crisis Communications is a very hot topic today. As  B2B and B2C companies forge farther into social media, the need to react quickly, decisively, and strategically is becoming one of the most discussed issues by marketing and communications professionals.

This fall,  PR Newswire hosted a Conversation on Crisis Communications in Dallas, TX.  Dallas is home to the largest number of Fortune 1000 companies in the country which makes it one of the top places in the country where communications professionals need this knowledge.  As we wrap up 2010 and polish our plans for the coming year, we thought that revisiting some of the learning from this session would be useful.

The panel discussion was moderated by Michelle Metzger from PierPont Communcations and featured Brandy King from Southwest Airlines; Craig VanBebber from Lockheed Martin, and Allen Manning – Assignment Editor for KTVT-CBS 11 Dallas, and myself (Michael Pranikoff – Global Director of Emerging Media for PR Newswire).

Speed

The panel all agreed that today speed is of importance today. However, it was quickly pointed out that speed doesn’t matter if the communications professional is not prepared and doesn’t have all the facts.  Craig VanBeeber of Lockheed Martin said that today’s communications professional is the most important person in a crisis situation in regards to getting the company message out.  While the Corporate Communications professional may not always be the person in front of the cameras, they are the ones advising and constructing the response.  That person needs to have access to all of the information as quickly as possible to coordinate an accurate and truthful response.

No Comment = Blood in the Water

Gone are the days of the “No Comment” answer.  Today, “…using no comment is like throwing blood into shark infested waters”, said Allen Mannging.  The media wants an answer, and stall tactics like that are going to make the media frustrated and cause them to not value you – the communications professional as a valid source.

Channel Surf

Using multiple channels today is also an important factor.  Southwest Airlines documented how they were able to use all of their available channels, from their spokesperson, to Twitter, their Blog, Facebook page, and more in order to quickly respond to a crisis situation.   Using all of your available channels also helps promote your transparency, attention, and concern in a situation.

Always Be Prepared

Finally, preparation is key in being able to respond quickly and accurately.  To many, this would mean having a crisis communications manual and procedures in place, but it’s a whole lot more than that.  Preparation for a crisis situation is an ongoing target.  We all know that developing key relationships with the local media and other key media points is essential to our jobs.   However, in a crisis situation, those relationships that you have cultivated and maintained will come in to play more than ever.   It is often these relationships that can help you to quickly get your message out that can often avert what may actually not have been a crisis in the first place.

Authored by Michael Pranikoff, director, emerging media, PR Newswire.

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