In today’s rapidly-moving world of social media, it’s critical to be proactive to pre-empt rumors and some of the potentially negative things that may be written and said about your company. Leaving questions or doubts in people’s minds can lead to all kinds of speculation and having this spread like wildfire can be hazardous to any organization.
This doesn’t mean having a plan for every possible thing that could happen. It’s not only unrealistic, but super time-consuming.
What it does mean is having plans in place identifying some of the worst-case scenarios, knowing who would be responsible for what, and an up-to-date contact list, both internally and externally. The external one would include the news media, shareholders, and other key publics, including major suppliers, allies, clients, lawmakers, and regulators, if applicable.
HOW TO BE PROACTIVE
Appoint someone to be responsible for the following and to monitor it. This individual would generate and disseminate updated information as often as needed to the publics you’ve identified as crucial.
As importantly, log any relevant feedback received. It could be helpful later on.
The same is true with your employees. Frequent internal communication is important, not only to morale, but also because employees are your greatest ambassadors. For them to have up-to-date information is priceless and helps to prevent second-guessing about why something was attempted or not tried.
If you have monitoring systems in place, gauge how the public is reacting and responding to the crisis. Be prepared to alter your messaging if need be.
Be sure to keep senior management apprised, not just of what’s being disseminated, but also of any major communications yet to be released. The latter will help avoid any surprises.
If applicable, take the lead. For example, in a case where an employee is killed elsewhere in a mass shooting, one might start a fund to help his/her family. Consider a matching fund where the company will match up to $X. Publicize this internally and externally with your key publics.
It’s a fine line between capitalizing on a disaster versus being helpful, but hardly anyone would argue that stepping up to aid the family of an employee victim fits into the former category.
After a crisis has passed, gather the team and analyze what worked and didn’t work. Get your data and see what people said or were critical about. If there’s some validity in some of the feedback, make changes in your response plan. And, of course, communicate all the findings and changes to senior management.
–5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian