What’s on the minds of crisis management professionals – right now!

Artistic Woman

Presenting on ‘The ten golden rules for crisis management in the digital age’ to 80 crisis managers from all kinds and size of organization is a really good way to discover what is really on the minds of professionals in these strange and uncertain times.

RockDove COO, Chris Britton, and myself hosted the meeting at the international conference of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in Austin, Texas, earlier this week.

Following our presentation, there was a spirited and smart discussion with many of the participants about aspects of the current trends in risk assessment and crisis response.

I’ve written about the ten golden rules in this blog before, but here’s a reminder of what they are:

  1. The need for speed
  2. Brands must be authentic in good times and bad
  3. Understand the new role of ‘old’ media
  4. Collaboration between communications and legal
  5. Employees are one of your most important audiences
  6. Empower the crisis team with digital tools and resources
  7. Data & analytics guide crisis response
  8. Brands must anticipate social, cultural & political issues
  9. The soundbite is even more important
  10. Have an up-to-date crisis plan

The rules were drawn-up based on the wonderful insights of the many expert authors who contributed chapters to our ebook, ‘The New Rules of Crisis Management.'

One of the rules that our crisis audience in Austin particularly wanted to discuss in more detail was the role of the ‘old’ media.

Once upon a time, the big win in a crisis was to get your side of the story in a major newspaper like The New York Times or USA Today.  However, the decline in trust in major institutions, including the traditional media, means that is no longer as important as it once was.

While you still must treat all forms of media seriously, it’s just as important to deploy all your own channels of communication, the website, blogs and social media. In addition, you need allies and influencers who will carry your message for you. The work to build a network of friends must begin long before you have any issue or crisis to manage.

A second rule that we talked at length about in the PRSA meeting, was the fact that many crises nowadays are driven and take place in social media.

There are several important ramifications of this truth for crisis managers.

The first is that if your plan is more than two years old, it is almost certain to not be equipped with the tools, processes and resources that will be effective in a two-way social media crisis communications response.  That plan needs scrapping and a new one created.

A second ramification is that you have ensure your team has the right tools, resources and training. We looked at the case study of Southwest Airlines and how well it responded to its first ever on-board fatality in April.

From the first few minutes of the tragedy, management has access to the social media posts of the other passengers on that plane, including one who was using the on-board wi-fi to broadcast live on Facebook. Southwest’s own team were quickly very visible on social media giving updates and information.

That’s the sign of a robust plan and a lot of preparation.

Thanks to everyone who joined our session in Austin – we appreciated the feedback and the insights.