Crisis management has evolved significantly over the last several decades. In our modern digital age, many of the threats that organizations such as yours face are inextricably tied to internet technologies. In fact, the 2017 Horizon Scan Report from the Business Continuity Institute lists the top three threats to businesses as cyber attacks, data breaches, and unplanned IT outages.Faced with these and other digital threats, you need to ensure your crisis communication plan accounts for the high-tech nature of the modern risk landscape. Today, there is no denying your organization relies on social media, computer networks, websites, email, and other digital assets to conduct business. Are you incorporating these types of assets into your planning efforts?
If not, now is the time to reassess your crisis communication plan, with an eye toward digital threats. Here, we detail three key components your plan needs in the digital age.
1. Monitoring Software
As the saying goes, bad news travels fast—an adage that is especially true online. The very nature of the 24-hour news cycle and the always-on availability of social media mean that articles, negative comments, and disparaging stories about your brand can spread quickly online.
Therefore, actively monitor your online reputation so you can get ahead of any potential negativity—reviews, videos, customer testimonials, employee complaints—before they go viral. Most medium-sized and large companies monitor their online presence using brand management software. These tools continuously search the internet for mentions of the respective company, keeping an eye on news articles, review sites, social media, and so on.
You can set parameters for what necessitates a crisis (e.g., a comment thread of five or more posts or a news item appearing on more than one site). Then, your communications or social media team can respond appropriately, thereby avoiding the dreaded “information vacuum” that has damaged so many brands before you, in which negative comments get out of control or people start to speculate.
Brand monitoring software helps you to stay in control of your messaging by enabling you to respond quickly and confidently to potential threats and emerging crises. With the right platform in place, your team will know what’s being said about your brand, both day and night.
2. Pre-approved Messaging
As any company with an online presence can attest, a digital crisis can evolve quickly. It’s not enough to monitor potential problems; you also need to be able to respond in a way that suits the crisis at hand.
One of the best ways to make sure you are ready to respond to a digital crisis is to gain pre-approval for emergency messaging. Draft key messages for a range of common crises across all platforms. This might include responses for a negative Facebook review, a statement regarding bad press, or tweets to respond to trending hashtags.
Next, gain the necessary approvals ahead of time. Then, when a crisis occurs, your team can feel confident in responding quickly without the pressure of drafting quick responses or scrambling to gain approval in as little time as possible.
3. Damage Control
Finally, consider how your organization would respond if it were hit by a cyber attack. With hacking attempts and phishing schemes on the rise, it’s important to plan for crisis communications in such an event. In this case, the key is owning up to mistakes and damage control.
After all, cyber attacks can have far-reaching consequences, thus affecting employees, customers, partners, and even the public at large. Your reputation may be tarnished for years to come. That’s why it’s vital to control the dialogue as much as possible following a cyber breach.
In response to such a crisis, leverage online platforms, such as your website and social media, to explain what happened, admit any mistakes, and detail what you’re doing to fix the situation. When appropriate, apologize. Answer questions from concerned customers or members of the public and demonstrate that you take the crisis seriously and are prepared to learn from it.
Pros of a Solid and Clear Crisis Communication Plan
In our digital age, organizations benefit from a digital approach to crisis communication. A crisis management app allows your team to instantly access and activate crisis plans, regardless of when a situation arises, enabling a speed of response that is simply not possible with traditional crisis planning methods.
This unprecedented level of accessibility means that your stakeholders can be activated immediately, the moment a crisis begins, and begin damage control right away. They can also use the app to easily communicate throughout the incident, using two-way communication capabilities, incident reporting, polling, checklists and more.
This combination of highly effective, timely stakeholder access to crisis plans, and the ability to instantly activate plans during a crisis, means your organization is empowered to respond quickly and confidently to a digital crisis. As a result, problems can be resolved more readily, with fewer complications, no matter when they strike.