Public opinion is being shaped faster than ever by digital connectivity. Here’s how your brand can respond as soon as the crisis hits
April 20th, 2016 - Corporations have often been warned that it is not a matter of “if”, but “when” they will be hit with some kind of calamity, scandal or crisis. It is a warning they should not take lightly. We are barely four months into 2016, and already we have seen many organizations and even entire sectors take a hit to their reputations. This includes professional sports leagues, fast food chains, consumer packaged goods companies and the Hollywood film industry.
It is certainly worth noting that before this year some of those companies and establishments had pretty solid reputations. But they’ve had to dig deep into crisis mode. It could be to reverse a sales slide, restore credibility back to their product or engender lost stakeholder affection.
But something else has struck me about the reputational challenges those companies have faced: the speed at which the crisis in question has blown up, stoked in no small part by digital media. In addition to the pace at which information, speculation and rumor gets spread, digital connectivity also enables opponents (even if they have no direct involvement in the crisis) an opportunity to add metaphorical fuel to the fire. These opponents can be special-interest groups, competitors, and, of course, individual influencers on social media.
No wonder companies feel a heightened sense of risk. Public opinion is being shaped often before companies feel like they have time to react in any meaningful way.
And yet, so many brands remain vulnerable to the full damage a crisis can inflict on their reputations. A recent survey from PR News and Nasdaq hammered home just how at risk so many are. It found that only half of companies feel their organization is adequately prepared to effectively manage a crisis – hardly surprising given virtually the same number were found to be operating without a crisis preparedness plan in place.
It has become a business imperative for every organization to have a frequently updated and practiced crisis preparedness plan. And every organization must also take into account how to best access and activate that plan – even if it is midnight on the eve of a holiday weekend. As we’ve seen, things can quickly gain negative momentum.
Thankfully, digital communication tools can be both friend and foe, when it comes to crisis management and preparedness.
New strategic alliance
Ogilvy PR has formed a strategic alliance with RockDove Solutions, a technology company that has developed a sophisticated mobile solution for crisis preparedness, an award-winning app called “In Case of Crisis.”
In fact, we’ve been collaborating with them on an app specifically for our clients that provides them with our best practice crisis preparedness strategic planning and content. This includes response, reporting, and activation protocols as well as detailed multi-level plans to manage the initial stages of specific scenarios. It can be customized to an individual company and its industry, covering everything from data breaches and product malfunction through to natural disaster.
The RockDove app also allows for quick and convenient password-protected links to the contact details of the crisis team. Functionality such as alerts, texts, and emails also enables immediate communication within the team, in addition to touch-of-a-button access to the scenario planning, draft statements, and other information needed in those crucial first few hours of a crisis.
This means no matter the moment a crisis breaks – even that Friday at midnight before a long weekend – the plan can be put into action right away. This advantage can be the difference between managing and staying in front of a crisis, or playing a catch-up after the fact, a position where no brand wants to find itself today.
About Nick Ludlum
Nick Ludlum is an Executive Vice President at Ogilvy Public Relations in Washington, DC and leads its North America crisis team. His regional counterparts include Iain Bundred in EMEA, Eerong Chong in APAC, and Renata Saraiva in LATAM. Led by Global Public Affairs MD Jamie Moeller, Ogilvy’s global crisis team works together on crisis and reputation management programs for a variety of corporations, trade association and foreign governments. @nickludlum LinkedIn: Nick Ludlum@ogilvypr