The majority of hotels recognize the critical need for crisis response planning. But have they factored in social media? Over at Hotel Executive, Gary explains eight ways hotels can be effectively using social media during a crisis response.
I’m on my way back from The Clean Show, where there was tremendous interest in my TRSA-sponsored educational session, “Crisis Communications: A Practical Guide to Protecting Your Reputation.” Whether they were commercial laundry operators or others in the textile industry, attendees recognized the importance of communicating effectively in a crisis.
Among the highlights of my presentation were:
Following the presentation, TRSA hosted a press conference to unveil results of a new survey that reported business and consumer perspectives on service professionals wearing uniforms. The conference also unveiled the new TRSA animated video we developed with videographer Tom Donnelly.
Opening day on the trade show floor was eye opening with the size of the equipment and advanced technology used by the commercial laundry industry TRSA represents. For me, it was a valuable window into an important, far-reaching industry.
A crisis is a time of uncertainty that requires the careful management of information. If you don’t move quickly to present the facts and explain your position, then others will do it for you – and that puts the accuracy of the words and images they use beyond your control.
The words and images you use can either spell success and strengthen your future or damage your company’s reputation for years to come. The impact of social media on the crisis communications process has been significant.
Today information flows faster is more complex and independent. It is spread through multiple channels, and as a result, is often less reliable and more difficult to control. You often have just a few hours or minutes to communicate.
Social media must be fully integrated in your crisis communications plan. That means, your social networks are of equal import as other audiences and your community manager should be an effective communicator, as well as a media-savvy professional with appropriate technical skills.
Messaging must be also consistent with other channels, but appropriate for social networks. Candor is expected and an authentic voice is critical. And, as crisis communications is a two-way process, listening through your social networks can inform your communications with many different audiences.
Above all, you need to consider and plan for all contingencies. Each type of crisis should be considered. Social media will play a critical role in communicating during and after natural disasters, terrorist attacks, cyber breaches and, of course, crises created by social media. But also consider its role in financial crises, human resources issues and (in the insurance world) claims and service issues.
Join me on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015 at 11 a.m. EST for the IMCA webcast, “Integrating Social Media in Crisis Communications,” where I’ll explore these issues in more detail.
In the shadow of the Boston Marathon tragedy, it’s painfully apparent – if it wasn’t before – that crisis scenarios are part of our collective new normal. From threats of terrorism and senseless acts of violence, to economic chaos and world events, crisis events can easy overtake the best-laid plans of any business.
At these times, there is a balance to be struck between business operations and consideration of outside events. Customers don’t want to be marketed to and reporters don’t want your new product press release in times of crisis. In addition, your own employees – even many miles removed from events – might struggle to cope with news from towns like Boston, Aurora, Colo., Sandy Hook, Conn., West, Texas, and others.
What do you say or do as a business owner or manager? Your response in such times must be genuine, sensitive to events and true to the culture of your organization. There is no one-size-fits-all communication solution.
However there are three things you should not do in a crisis. Don’t:
While you cannot plan for every eventuality, a good Crisis Communications Plan will best ensure your brand is protected while also being sensitive to events outside of your control.
Crisis happens. When the crisis involves social media, it can have one heck of an impact on brand.
When Burger King’s Twitter handle was hacked today, the brand’s logo was changed to that of McDonald’s. The hackers also posted crude language, @ messages to questionable accounts, and video and photographs that had little to do with the brand and no doubt annoyed followers. Oddly, they boosted Burger King’s followers by more than 20,000 before the account was suspended.
If you manage a Twitter account for a brand and that account is hacked, what steps should your crisis plan include?
At the first indication of trouble, immediately log in and change the password. If you are able to log in and change the password, go into your settings and review all of the third-party apps connected to your account. Revoke access to all third-party apps until you can better assess the situation. (Be sure to revisit these apps once the situation is under control to ensure all brand account functionality.)
If you are not able to access the account and change the password, go to the Support Request section of Twitter and under Account Access select the “Hacked account” option. This will give Twitter the necessary “heads up” to suspend your account and avoid endless amounts of spam being sent to your followers. It will also allow you to reset your password.
While you work to regain control of your Twitter account, post a notification to your brand’s blog, website and other social platforms. This notification should simply state:
Such action lets your followers know you are aware of the situation. It can even foster good will among followers irritated by the hacking event.
As a precaution, make sure you use a secure password including letters, numbers and capitalization that cannot be easily determined. This password – especially if multiple people have access to the account – should be changed regularly.
Some crises can’t be avoided. But they can be mitigated through close monitoring, training and ensuring a workable plan is in place.
Interested in training your team to handle a social media crisis? Email us at email@example.com for information.
Like many fellow communications professionals, hearing the words “Frankenstorm” didn’t scare us away from our workdays this week. Some of us may have faced the effects of Hurricane Sandy head-on like one Philadelphia editor, but, for many of us, we could sit at home and work right from our smartphones and laptops without having to feel a raindrop (hopefully.)
So, when the business world is taking a “hurricane day,” what do you do? The answer to this is something agencies hopefully had prepared yesterday.
PR agencies can’t put a “Closed” sign on their email accounts or turn off their smartphones just because they can’t drive to work. Unless major wires are destructed or phones lose the last of their battery life, PR agencies can remain open for business.
Employees need to be prepared to deliver to their clients, communicate effectively with one another and, most importantly, protect themselves, whether a record-breaking hurricane hits or the power just happens to blow out on a perfectly sunny day.
The Quiet Before the Storm
Just as you would prepare for a client—prepare your own crisis communications plan before the event of a crisis. The news and National Weather Service prepared us for a worst case scenario for this #Superstorm, so agencies should be just as ready for their clients and themselves.
As Entrepreneur.com suggests, assess any possible risks your company may face, including weather events and property damage. Moreover, consider what to do if key employees are absent or unavailable; keep contact lists and passwords in a safe, accessible place.
Make the communications plan known to employees throughout the year so your team can navigate as smoothly as possible through a workday with turbulent weather.
On the Big Day
Just like any regular morning meeting, the first step in tackling a storm is to set up a virtual team meeting and prioritize. Over a conference line or chat room, discuss top deliverables that must be completed.
Next to consider is your clients. Alert your clients via email, Twitter—any channel necessary to inform them that you are available to fulfill their needs.
Throughout the day of a disaster, keep your co-workers and clients continually updated on work progress, as well as your safety, and follow these tips from PR News to work from home most successfully.
Finally, keep yourself safe and pass work onto others if you begin lose access to forms of communication. And, if you find yourself sitting in the dark, pull out your nearest candle, take out the old ereader—I mean book—and just wait until the storm passes.
*Originally published in IMCA’s membership newsletter
In March 2002 I walked into conference workshop on behalf of an insurer to do a presentation on crisis response. It was the same conference and topic that I had presented the year before to about 40 people. This year there was 250 people. They moved me into a ballroom.
Once I got my nerves under control I asked myself what had changed? September 11, 2001, of course. The World Trade Center attacks had put crisis preparedness on everyone’s agenda. There was a mass wake-up call that we had to be prepared for the unexpected.
Ten years later, I’m not sure we are. In talking to friends in the industry, it is surprising how many companies still define a crisis too narrowly, forget to make communications a cornerstone of the plan, or don’t update their plans to account for new developments like social media.
Even in insurance, an industry that is all about evaluating risk, it is too easy to get complacent. That’s big mistake.
Here is a quick checklist to see if you are really prepared:
The point of a crisis is that it often comes on quickly and unexpectedly. Two things we do know is that you can’t fully predict how a crisis will unfold and you can’t start planning once it happens. So a crisis response plan should cover any eventuality – even if you don’t think it will happen. That means terrorist attacks, natural disasters, medical emergencies (think H1N1), internal corruption, financial issues, employment issues and more.
A planning team should include not just public relations and operations, but your lawyers, customer service, human resources, outside emergency management officials and more. You want everyone from every department involved in planning – and engaged in the response.
Too often a crisis plan hinges more on logistical, financial and legal issues and not on communicating with all your stakeholders – customers, community, shareholders, employees, partners, vendors, etc. In today’s world you are judged by how well you communicate. Be ready, do it well, and you can improve your image during the crisis.
You must have designated spokespeople and clear protocol to ensure your company is speaking with one voice, and one consistent and effective message. Get media training for all key players, taking into account all media. And make sure social media is integrated in your plan – how will you monitor and respond using social media?
You need strong leadership in a crisis. Rudy Guiliani made his mark after September 11. Is your CEO the right one to communicate in a crisis? While he or she is the first and obvious choice, it may not be the best. Remember BP’s CEO Tony Hayward?
There is nothing worse than creating a good plan and sticking it on the shelf to collect dust. Plans only work if there are frequent updates and practice. We used to estimate that you had to be able to communicate effectively within 24 hours of a crisis. Now, with social media, you must be able to act in an hour. That’s not a lot of time.
If you can’t check off everything in this list, then it’s probably a good idea to take a fresh look at your crisis response planning. Remember, those first hours after a crisis are crucial to how your stakeholders will perceive your company’s image. Don’t skimp on the time and money in good planning – or you’ll be paying a lot more later to clean up the damage.