Facebook Crisis Communication Lessons

The Facebook crisis communications lessons are many. The explosive interview on 60 Minutes and the testimony before Congress from whistleblower Frances Haugen confirms and reinforces the crisis communication lessons we discussed in the SituationHub Master Class that originally aired live on March 11, 2021. The Master Class is called The Social Media Conundrum. You’ll want to watch that program, in which we zeroed in on why Facebook’s algorithms are built against you in a crisis.  

Essentially, Haugen confirmed how the algorithms focus on your bad news and get your crisis event in front of more eyeballs on Facebook, while your good news perishes. It’s why we strongly urge our clients NOT to use Facebook as part of their crisis communications strategy. A key takeaway line from social media marketing expert Jay Baer was his observation that you should never build your house on rented property, i.e. Facebook is rented property. You are better to build your house on your website.

We’ve often defined a crisis as any event that can damage an organization’s reputation, revenue, and brand. This week, Facebook is the poster child of crisis communication lessons.

  • A whistleblower calls out Facebook’s algorithms on 60 Minutes
  • Facebook’s stock value immediately takes a nosedive
  • Social media lights up with #DeleteFacebook
  • The whistleblower calls out Facebook’s algorithms before Congress
  • Facebook crashes
  • Facebook is slow to issue a crisis communications statement about its own crisis

Facebook’s response and behavior are very similar to how big tobacco and big chemical behaved in the 1970s. The chemical industry has made huge strides in their efforts to reduce chemical emissions, as well as in their crisis response. Big tobacco has seen their clientele disappear as it attempts to morph into a vaping business.

The Facebook crisis communications lessons will continue. Winston Churchill once said,

Never waste a good crisis.”

To that extent, we believe that every crisis is a living classroom and worthy of your attention so you can learn from the success or failure of others in crisis. The lessons learned should serve as an incentive for you to engage in the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, so you can have the tools to communicate effectively should you face a crisis. 

The Facebook crisis is a treasure trove of how not to handle a crisis. We suspect things will get much worse in the days and weeks ahead.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

15 Questions to Ask Before You Use Facebook for Crisis Communications

Can You Handle a Crisis When it Hits by Winging It?

Crisis Management Lessons from Hurricane Katrina vs. COVID19

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Pumpkin Spice Crisis Communications

Pumpkin spice crisis communications is the latest craze among companies, CEOs, and public relations professionals. These are people who realize that Fall is here. We’re in the final quarter of the year, and they have failed to meet their goal of completing a crisis communications plan, their crisis communications news releases, their crisis drills, and the other components of their crisis communications strategies.

To welcome Fall and to embrace whatever panic you may have, we’re ready to help you sprint through the 5 Steps of Effective Crisis Communications. Just smell the aroma of rich crisis communications plan nutmeg, cinnamon news releases, ginger media training, and accents of cloves in your crisis communications drill!

Your challenge is to take a huge task – Crisis Communications – and make that task easy and fast. Fortunately, we pioneered this concept for you back in 2005. We figured out a way to let you customize a crisis communications plan in… you ready for this? Drum roll… five hours.

Yep, you can have a finished plan in five hours as we sprint through the process. (Of course, the secret pumpkin spice ingredient is that we’ve put more than 25 years of experience and more than 6,000 hours into development, just so you can create crisis communications magic in five hours.)

Sure, you can cook up your own crisis communications plan if you have 2,000 to 4,000 hours sitting on your spice rack… and who doesn’t? But if you don’t have the extra time, our Crisis Communications Sprint system is like pulling a box of carrot cake mix off the shelf in the morning and having a perfect crisis communications plan finished before dinner.

Your crisis communications plan is Step 2 of the 5 Steps. On the front end, you need to conduct a Vulnerability Assessment to evaluate all the “stuff” that might “hit the fan.” That’s Step 1.

The secret sauce to your crisis communications plan should be having a deep library of pre-written news releases. That’s Step 3. We have 100 pre-written news releases with your name on it. However, for some of you, your best bet is to subscribe to the SituationHub crisis communications news release app. SituationHub can actually write an advanced crisis communications news release in 3-5 minutes.

Some of you realize your greatest need to train your spokespeople. We call that Step 4, but often it is a perfect standalone training class. A single misplaced word can damage a company’s revenue, reputation, and brand in ways that are as foul as putting dill in your pumpkin spice mix.

The icing on the cake is Step 5, when you conduct a Crisis Communications Drill. That’s when you get to test your crisis communications plan, your crisis communications news release, you get to test your spokespeople, and you get to test the ability of your entire team to work together. A crisis communications drill can be agonizing and exhilarating all at the same time. Most importantly, it lets you make mistakes in private so you can correct them in private, without ever making those mistakes in public.

So, what is your next step? How about a free discovery call to discuss your specific needs?

Pull up a chair, order a Pumpkin Spice Latte, and how about you and I chat about your Pumpkin Spice Crisis Communications needs?

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

15 Questions to Ask Before You Use Facebook for Crisis Communications

Can You Handle a Crisis When it Hits by Winging It?

Crisis Management Lessons from Hurricane Katrina vs. COVID19

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

‘Sprint’ to More Effective Crisis Communications

Be Prepared. Be Fast. Sprint!

Doing crisis communications right can take a long time; a really long time. Let’s stop doing that. Let’s do it faster. Let’s find a better way. Let’s sprint!

Traditionally, companies set up endless meetings and an inflated collaboration process. People will spend three months to two years talking about the “process” and never really create a usable set of tools. And during the drawn-out process, a crisis might hit and everyone is still unprepared. They have no tools in their toolbox; only notes from those endless meetings.

Does that sound familiar? If it does, let’s stop doing that, which doesn’t work, and start sprinting through the crisis communications process.

A “sprint” is a process for solving big problems and tackling big tasks in five days or less. It’s about both efficiency and focus. 

To simplify your goalsetting and ability to accomplish tasks, you have to break them down into smaller, faster, more achievable tasks. That’s why I created the Five Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. 

What would take your company or organization months to complete, you can now complete in five days or less, with a crisis communications sprint. Here are all of the Five Steps to Effective Crisis Communications you can complete virtually:

Crisis Vulnerability Assessment

What is the worst thing that could happen? Your roadmap to crisis communications begins as you imagine and evaluate all the situations that could go wrong. We are ready to partner with you to harvest insights from your team. Ask about our one-day Vulnerability Assessment Sprint to begin your crisis communications planning.

Crisis Communications Plan

As a situation unfolds, can your organization take control in the first few minutes? The best crisis communications plan plots every step before, during, and after a crisis. If you fail to plan, plan to fail. Our “sprint” crisis communications system can put a plan in place in one day.

Crisis Pre-written Statements

When you write a statement, is the review process bogged down in second-guessing, word-smithing, and fights over commas? Save time by using our library of pre-written statements for the media, employees, customers, and stakeholders. Ask about our pre-written statement sprint, which can be delivered in one day.

Crisis Spokesperson Media Training

When revenue, reputation, and brand are on the line, there is no margin for error. One misplaced word can be costly. We’ve seen companies lose hundreds of millions of dollars in a 12-second sound bite. Our crisis communications media training gets your spokespeople prepared to handle tough questions on your toughest day.

Crisis Communication Drills

Practice makes perfect. Do you routinely test your crisis management team, crisis communications plan, and spokespeople? A crisis drill allows you to make mistakes in private so you never make those mistakes on the day of your crisis. Add a virtual crisis drill to your crisis communications sprint commitment.

We care about your reputation, revenue, and brand. We hope you do to.

Here is your sprint roadmap. Would you like us to sprint with you?

To set goals, talk about your needs, and formulate a budget, schedule a complimentary, confidential call with me https://calendly.com/braud/15min

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

15 Questions to Ask Before You Use Facebook for Crisis Communications

Can You Handle a Crisis When it Hits by Winging It?

Crisis Management Lessons from Hurricane Katrina vs. COVID19

Your October Assignment: The Truth About Vulnerability Assessments During COVID-19

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Sexiest, teasing headline you’ve ever read, huh? Makes you want to put on your old t-shirt that says, “Only Real Men & Women Do Regular Vulnerability Assessments.”

Joking aside, you need to get on this. Here is the how and why…

We’re 8-9 months into a crisis that should have ended somewhere in the 90 to 120 day range.

Early on, it was your only crisis to manage and for which you had to communicate. I’m proud of you. After the first surge of communications, many organizations fell into COVID fatigue. That was followed by COVID limbo.

But now COVID-19 is part of a compound crisis and it is your responsibility to assess the threats and vulnerabilities that your organization could face next.

Here’s What’s Changed

Generally in the world of public relations and crisis communications, an expert would say the first and the best thing you should do as part of the crisis communication process is to assess every vulnerability that could affect the revenue, reputation, and brand of your organization.

Your initial Vulnerability Assessment is Step 1, and it becomes your roadmap for your next four steps, which include:

  • Step 2: Writing your crisis communications plan
  • Step 3: Writing a library of pre-written statements for your employees, media, customers, community, and other stakeholders.
  • Step 4: Media training your spokespeople (including virtual training)
  • Step 5: Crisis communications drills (including virtual drills)

Traditionally you would do an initial Vulnerability Assessment, followed by quarterly meetings with managers to identify and prepare for new or emerging vulnerabilities. For example, COVID-19 was not really on anyone’s Vulnerability Assessment one year ago. Nine months ago at your quarterly meeting, COVID-19 and all of the issues around it should have been added to your list.

Once on the list, you would update your crisis communications plan if necessary, adding pre-written news releases for COVID-19 protocol, response, outbreaks, and potential fatalities.

More is Better

We’re now recommending to our clients that the frequency should be increased from quarterly to monthly, because most organizations are facing compound crises, such as COVID + hurricane, COVID + wildfires, COVID + you name it.

Would you like some additional resources?

  1. Watch today’s video. It has a clip from a crisis communications Master Class I recently taught for SituationHub.com
  2. Watch the entire Master Class
  3. Watch our 5-part video series on the five steps to effective crisis communications.
  4. Get help with your Vulnerability Assessment by scheduling a free, confidential phone call with us.

COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon. Please prepare for what comes next. Please step up the frequency of your Vulnerability Assessments.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Covid-19 Crisis Communications Webinar Recording

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Avoid Social Media Scrutiny, Save Your Brand

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

Think of social media as a compass. A compass has 360 degrees or points on it. If you face one direction, the opposite direction is 180 degrees from you.

In social media, any time you take a position on a topic, you can be assured that someone else has an opinion 180 degrees away from you – or the exact opposite opinion. And for that much, if we keep with the compass analogy, if you were to put 360 social media participants in a virtual space, you can bet that no two feel exactly the same. Each has a different opinion, ranging from just one or two degrees off to being 180 degrees away – or feeling exactly the opposite of someone else. You can see some of the digital impact of #blacklivesmatter, #metoo, and other social justice hashtags on social media here.

The media loves to report what people think on social media. Rather than conducting a scientific poll to measure public opinion, television reporters and producers turn to Facebook and Twitter to report how people feel about any issue. This replaces a previous disturbing, sad trend of the “man on the street interview.” This is where a television reporter hopelessly stands on a street corner trying to get sound bites from random people, to fill a hole in a new story.

Years ago, stories would have run on the news and people would have voiced their opinions at the office water cooler, at the corner bar, or at the beauty parlor.

Social media is a virtual office water cooler, corner bar and beauty parlor all connected to the world’s largest amplifier.

Add to it that search engines and hashtags allow the amplification to be searched and then amplified through the television news media, which means the television media will tell you what people think.

Sadly, and with a degree of bias, the media tell you what they think the prevailing thoughts are, even though my compass analogy tells you that whatever one person thinks about one issue, someone else thinks something slightly or very different. For example, for each person who believes people must wear masks in public to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus, there is another person who believes they should not have to, or that the use of masks is not helpful to prevent the spread.

Social media is full of opinions. Many of us have heard a variety of quotes about opinions. They range from the mild, “Opinions are like Belly Buttons, everybody has one;” to the slightly more crude, “Opinions are like farts. Just because you have one doesn’t mean you have to let it out;” to the even more crude analogy I heard during my television news career, “Opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one and thinks that everyone else’s stinks.” (Google “Opinion Quotes” to see countless more.)

The sad reality is the media, for nearly 20 years, has laid inflammatory opinions out for the public to hear, just to fuel a degree of outrage, so that people keep talking about what they heard on the news and where they heard it. News Talk Radio pioneered it and I’d say Rush Limbaugh turned it into an ugly ratings bonanza, copied by local talk radio, which has then been copied by Fox News and CNN each time they assemble a group of pundits who scream at each other with opposing views.

So how does this affect you if you are in PR and communications, working for a corporation, non-profit organization or government agency?

First, you must be more aware than ever that you will be judged harshly by critics for any and everything done by your organization, its executives, and its employees. Your efforts at good news publicity will be condemned by naysayers. Your future crises will become the focal point for public hostility in social media. I predict that someday in the not too distant future, companies will go out of business simply because of public pressure on social media.

Long term, your company could see serious damage to both reputation and revenue because of social media pressure. You could be forced to apologize for harmless acts or actions that capture the ire of social media.

In conclusion, every corporation, non-profit organization and government agency, and the executives and employees of each, face tougher scrutiny than ever. The time is now to rethink your media relations, social media and crisis communications strategies. What got no attention in the past will be more amplified than ever in the most costly ways.

Rethinking your media relations, social media, and crisis communications strategies can be extremely difficult and time-consuming, so these videos can walk you through it. View 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications here.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Covid-19 Crisis Communications Webinar Recording

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Thomas de LUZE on Unsplash

Crisis Communications, Black Lives Matter, and Corporate Policy

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

In this year of crisis upon crisis, many brands have been stumped and confused as to how to address the Black Lives Matter #BLM movement and the associated social justice issues.

The Black Lives Matter movement has created some communications challenges that are in some ways unique, but in other ways, can be addressed using the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications.

Consider these steps for addressing #BLM, and any other social or political issue in the future. Keep in mind, these suggestions are not based on how significant the issue may be, but rather on techniques for effective crisis communications.

1. Any activist movement or protest could affect your company if you are called upon to comment.

In the case of Black Lives Matter, your company or brand may have been called upon to make a statement of support.

But before you decide if you’ll say something and what that might be on this or any other social issues, we must consider Step 1 of the 5 Steps to Effective Communications, which is based on your Vulnerability Assessment. (I encourage you to watch this week’s video, where I go into more details than I will go into in this blog.)

Your Vulnerability Assessment is designed to assess situations that could affect your organization’s revenue, reputation, and brand.

Commenting on any social issue, political issue, or political figure, can have a positive or a negative effect on your organization’s revenue, reputation and brand.

Black Lives Matter is unique because a brand statement of support pleased some, while angered others. Sometimes the words of support even angered members of the #BLM moment, if not done to their standards.

For example, unique to this situation, some brands that voiced support were criticized because their support was not accompanied by tangible action. Watch the video for tangible examples.

2. Your Vulnerability Assessment has the ability to identify a situation that can actually lead to corporate policy, which will also shape your future response and behavior.

You should have a frank discussion and establish policy about whether your brand does or does not comment on social issues, political issues, or candidates. If your brand’s position is that you never comment on such issues, when asked to do so, you need to have a statement ready that explains your corporate policy.

If you do speak in favor of an issue, policy or candidate, be ready for how it affects your brand. Home Depot reportedly has a policy not to comment or support, but reportedly their co-founder donates heavily to a presidential candidate, causing shoppers to go to Lowes if they don’t like the supported candidate.

Goya Foods is facing a boycott after its CEO praised the President at a White House Event.

3. Also, consider whether action by your brand is part of your corporate policy.

At the height of the #BLM protests, many protesters criticized brands that offered verbal support, asking, “So what are you going to do about it?”

Some organizations have taken the pro-active step of establishing various funds for various causes, such as social justice, women’s issues, LGBTQ issues, and more. Additionally, they establish committees of employees who have a say in how, when, and to whom the funds are given.

In conclusion, let me make two points. First, I’m not telling you which approach is best for your brand. That needs to be decided based on your Vulnerability Assessment. Secondly, throughout your career, you will face many watershed moments and face many significant issues. As a brand, you should never be surprised and you should always be prepared.

To have a confidential conversation or to schedule a Virtual Vulnerability Assessment, please use this link.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Covid-19 Crisis Communications Webinar Recording

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

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Coronavirus Crisis Communications Plan Truths

Here we are entering the middle of summer, where we can reflect on and learn from the unprecedented crises that have taken place in the past few months. As the crises unfolded, I wrote about how you can communicate more effectively in these various situations. Let’s look back at where we’ve been this Spring, and examine what rings true for crisis communications, corporate communications, and protecting your revenue, reputation, and brand today.

At the first signs of the Coronavirus, in this blog, I warned companies to get professional media training and to assess the vulnerabilities of their particular organization. I explained that by preparing for the crisis, you could show your executive leadership team you are thinking ahead and thinking on their behalf. Watch the video here:

As the pandemic unfolded I advised in this blog that the answer is YES, you do NEED a crisis communications plan for COVID-19 and other vulnerabilities, and provided 5 steps to write a crisis plan:

I continued to provide update after update, even discussing how to do virtual media interviews, since they were suddenly a MUST, and we all needed to learn to adapt and communicate in a new way.

Finally, I addressed the truth that no one wanted to address. I predicted this pandemic would likely last through the summer, and it became clear that we would not only need to manage the Coronavirus, but we would also need to manage Coronavirus + Tornado (that later ripped through my hometown), or Coronavirus + Weather Events as we entered hurricane season (we were hit later by Cristobal), AND the crises that our organizations are always vulnerable to – such as explosions, fires, power outages, crime, social media firestorms, and more. You can read the blog here.

In this blog in May, I warned that the issue of wearing masks vs. not wearing masks could spur on political issues, protests, and outrage among our country.

As protests took over our country, I was quiet. Social media and the internet was too noisy, too complicated, and too hostile for a time. The point now is not to say “I told you so,” but to acknowledge that when one crisis hits, we have to be prepared, and that we have to prepare for all of the regular challenges and crises that can occur in addition to that initial crisis.

Hopefully, by reflecting on the last few months, you are more motivated now than ever to prepare. You have work to do. It’s challenging to write a crisis communications plan. It’s challenging to think about such tragic events that could happen to your company. But as we can see, they do happen, they can last for months, and they can pile on top of each other.

I’ve broken down

How to write a crisis plan in 5 steps:

1. Start with analyzing the vulnerabilities of your company to certain crises.

2. Write a thorough crisis plan that addresses and outlines every last detail.

3. Write pre-written news releases that you can deliver to the media and the public in less than one hour.

4. Have your spokespeople and your leadership team professionally media trained.

5. Conduct realistic crisis drills.

This can all be done virtually, and I’m here to help.

This 5-part video series outlining the 5 Steps to a Crisis Communications Plan can make your path easier. Schedule a call with me so that I can walk you through it or answer any questions you might have.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Covid-19 Crisis Communications Webinar Recording

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

COVID-19 Crisis Communications Award: The Lysol Case Study

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

We raise a glass and present our first ever COVID-19 Crisis Communications Award to the team at Lysol. After the president asked doctors at a news conference if products like Lysol could be consumed orally or as an injection, the Lysol team was fast to respond with this statement:

“Due to recent speculation and social media activity, RB (the makers of Lysol and Dettol) has been asked whether internal administration of disinfectants may be appropriate for investigation or use as a treatment for coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion, or any other route). As with all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information.

We have a responsibility in providing consumers with access to accurate, up-to-date information as advised by leading public health experts. For this and other myth-busting facts, please visit Covid-19facts.com.”

What is your takeaway on this? Three things…

Takeaway #1

In the 5-Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, you are encouraged to conduct frequent Vulnerability Assessments. Based on the kinds of things the president may say on any given day at his coronavirus briefings, you need to add “Rumors & Speculation” to your vulnerability list as your first take-away.

Takeaway #2

You also need to prepare a pre-written news release for Rumors & Speculation.  Add this to your library of pre-written news releases.

Takeaway #3

You now need to designate a member of your team to watch the daily White House briefings because there is no telling when your brand or company might get mentioned in a positive or negative way.

As we discussed last week, you cannot focus all of your crisis efforts on just COVID-19. You must think COVID + X. For Lysol, it was COVID + Presidential Speculation.

What made the task of responding even harder is that in our politically divided country, people are either all Trump or never Trump. Lysol, had to walk on eggshells to avoid damage to their revenue, reputation, and brand by being forced to issue a crisis statement that attempted not to anger Trump supporters. (I’m having to walk on eggshells myself, just to write a blog about this.)

Lysol wins their award for dancing around the land mines while also being fast to respond.

Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall at Lysol when this went down?

Be well and be prepared. We live in strange times.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Covid-19 Crisis Communications Webinar Recording

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

How to Write a Coronavirus Crisis Communications Plan?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

Coronavirus is spreading and if you are in public relations, emergency management, or business continuity, you need to be preparing and using your crisis communications tools.

You may be asking:

  • Do I need a coronavirus crisis communications plan?
  • How do I write a coronavirus crisis communications plan?

Those are the two questions I have been asked the most in the past week.

The answer:

  • Yes, you need a coronavirus crisis communications plan.
  • Writing a crisis communications plan for coronavirus, at least for me, is the same as writing a crisis communications plan for any issue.

In the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications,

Coronavirus checks off every box:

  • It is identified in your Vulnerability Assessment
  • Your crisis communications plan should guide you through gathering information, confirming the information, then sharing the information.
  • You should use pre-written news releases to manage the expectations of your stakeholders regarding how the virus is affecting your organization, your employees, and the people you serve.
  • You should conduct media training for your spokespeople using the pre-written news releases, because if you are directly affected, the media will be on you fast.
  • Now is an excellent time to hold an exercise or drill with coronavirus as the topic.

Managing Expectations as a Crisis Communications Strategy

  • If your organization has no crisis communications plan, you are already far behind. I have a plan that you can put in place in one day. Reach out to me at 985-624-9976 if you want details.
  • If your employer or your executives tell you that the company doesn’t need to do anything at this time, they are wrong. The best time to prepare for a crisis is on a clear sunny day, long before the crisis hits. However, human denial and corporate denial are strong. Failure to plan for coronavirus sends a powerful message about the degree of denial within your organization.
  • If you do have a crisis communications plan, and if it is properly written, it should have consistent guidance and rules that universally work for every crisis.
  • If you use pre-written news releases to address the variables of your crisis – which is what I advocate – then your pre-written news releases will be the main tool that needs customization.
  • If you have no confirmed coronavirus cases, send a statement to all employees that outlines how your organization will be responding to this crisis. Give them instructions about any precautions they should take to protect their personal health. Outline what you’d like them to do if they feel ill. Inform them about any changes to your travel policy. You may also wish to send the same statement to your customers, depending upon your type of business.
  • Next, develop a pre-written news release that addresses all the issues associated with a case actually being discovered in your workforce.
  • You’ll want to write a statement that also addresses potential fatalities and long-term impact on your organization in the event there is an escalation of cases that affect your organization.

I’ve long defined a crisis as any event that affects an organization’s revenue, reputation and brand. As evidenced by the stock market, coronavirus checks all of the boxes.

Should you need to do this all quickly, I have some great turnkey options ready for you to use. Use this link to schedule a free, private call https://calendly.com/braud/15min

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson


Coronavirus Crisis Communication Plan Update

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

The Coronavirus crisis is a perfect crisis communication case study that can encompass every one of the Five Steps to Effective Crisis Communications that we have focused on this year.

In Crisis Communications Step 1, we focused on your Vulnerability Assessment. We mentioned that a Vulnerability Assessment should be done at least once a quarter. The Coronavirus is a perfect example of a potential crisis that did not exist last quarter.

Based on your Vulnerability Assessment, you can determine if your Crisis Communication Plan written in Step 2 needs to be updated. Of particular interest with something like the Coronavirus, would be issues related to social media. If there was an outbreak, the comments on social media could be overwhelming.

The most important update will come in Step 3, which is your Pre-Written News Release statements. You should write pre-written statements that should include a statement of precautions that employees should take to stay healthy and safe, as well as a pre-written statement that you would use if a case of the Coronavirus occurred among your employees. You’ll want to pre-determine how much you would say, whether you would give names and updates on conditions, as well as how you would address fatalities if they happened.

Because an illness or death from Coronavirus would create a lot of media attention, you will want to hold a Coronavirus media training class for your spokespeople who might need to be your spokesperson(s). Media training is Step 4 in the Five Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. Remember to use your pre-written news release as a script for the media training news conference.

Finally, Step 5 is to hold a crisis communications drill. The Coronavirus crisis is an excellent drill scenario. It is very different than responding to something like a fire, explosion, or shooting. Because Coronavirus would involve issues related to HIPPA and employee confidentiality, you will be able to have some interesting policy discussions. I suspect you’ll have some interesting debates between your crisis communication team, your HR team, your executive leadership team, and your legal team. A drill lets you have those discussions now, rather than losing valuable time if a real crisis emerges.

Opportunity Knocks

Coronavirus is an opportunity knocking on your door. It is the kind of thing that will help a public relations professional get a seat at the table. Show your executive leaders that you are thinking ahead and thinking on their behalf.

Also, the Coronavirus has the ability to negatively affect an organization’s revenue, reputation and brand. Those are the precise things we aim to protect through effective crisis communications.

You have your marching orders. Get to work.

If you need to schedule a free strategy call or if you need ask about any of the Five Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, please use this link to schedule a free 15 minute strategy call with me.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Macau Photo Agency on Unsplash