Build a Proactive Crisis Management Process
Thanks to the viral nature of our 24/7/365 news media, PR professionals must be hyper-vigilant to mitigate the reputational and financial risk of negative news.
Controversy swirling around a non-profit’s spending, backlash to a film industry organization’s nominee selection process, Congressional hearings over a banking and financial services company scandal and a contentious election season riddled with regrettable, off-the-cuff remarks—2016 has proven a challenging year for PR crisis management teams, and it’s not over yet. “You need to be prepared for today’s media culture, in which a tweet can become newsworthy and a news interview can become tweet-worthy,” says Brad Phillips of Phillips Media Relations—and he’s certainly right. In the digital age, a robust crisis management strategy is a necessity for small and large organizations alike. Is your current strategy optimized for the velocity of today’s news cycle?
How to Prepare for a Crisis
The day-to-day activities that you engage in before a crisis occurs are, in fact, what enables you to respond effectively post-crisis. Organizations—and their PR practitioners—need to establish a two-pronged approach.
You need an established process for daily threat appraisals. Understanding the buzz across all media channels allows you to stay abreast of emerging issues so that you can tackle potential problems before they turn into an avalanche of negative news.
Use of a comprehensive media monitoring and analytics solution aids in this type of environmental scanning, allowing you to quickly analyze a complete range of media channels and identify and evaluate potential threats. The alternative—a manual process of combing through alerts from multiple platforms, verifying sources, combining relevant data and correlating your findings—makes it difficult to achieve a cohesive view in a timely manner. And when it comes to crisis management, timeliness matters.
Case in Point: Political Campaign Media Monitoring—Red, White & Who?
Wordsworth Communications partner and senior counsellor Joe Shields shares his own experience working on a political campaign in which a local 16-year conservative incumbent found himself facing a primary challenge by a conservative party activist. The well-connected opponent and his surrogates made extensive use of social media and the comments sections of traditional media early on, taking advantage of the fact that the incumbent candidate was featured in the news well before more visible efforts like paid and earned media or direct mail campaigns had begun.
Through monitoring, the incumbent’s PR team gained a clear sense of the direction the opponent’s campaign would take—to attack the incumbent on spending. This enabled them to plan a re-election campaign that focused on how the incumbent’s county actually ranked second to last among 35 jurisdictions in spending per capita. By having conducted a threat appraisal, the campaign was able to adjust its messages and spending, and address the potential attack before it was made. The result? The incumbent won re-election by a 10 percent margin.
In a race that frankly a lot of people expected us to lose, our ‘canary in the coal mine’ approach of monitoring and identifying the threat early allowed for action, rather than reaction, and helped to deliver a wonderful victory.
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