IABC Calgary Conference Podcast: Top Takeaway Crisis Communications Lessons

Delivering the closing keynote for IABC Calgary. Taking off my pants to prove a point  about the LuLu Lemon crisis of yoga pants wearing thin on the inner thighs.

Delivering the closing keynote for IABC Calgary. Taking off my pants to prove a point about the LuLu Lemon crisis of yoga pants wearing thin on the inner thighs.

As a keynote speaker at the IABC Canada-West Region Conference, I was asked to do a podcast discussing crisis communications lessons for public relations and communications professionals.  Vice President of IABC Calgary, Will Tigley interviews me to talk about crucial communications issues in today’s industry.

Here were a few of the major crisis communications planning aspects to consider that were discussed in the podcast:

First, the need for speed is one of the greatest issues in the industry.  With the speed of Twitter and all social media, there is no longer time to wait multiple hours discussing semantics of a press release.  The key to speed is pre-written news releases. Put the systems in place on a clear sunny day so that when your darkest day comes, you are prepared.

Will Tigley asked, “How do you go from being good at crisis communications to great at crisis communications?” You must have a robust crisis communications plan with pre-written news releases. You must practice in private, media train your spokespeople at least once a year, and act out realistic, high-chaos, yearly crisis communications drills. 

Another aspect to consider in crisis communications planning includes conducting vulnerability assessments. This means walking throughout your organization, interviewing employees, and conducting meetings to determine everything that could ever possibly go wrong.  Categories range from white-collar crimes, to hurricanes, to violence, explosions and even social media crises. Again, these crises are remedied with a simple, yet thorough crisis communications plan, as well as pre-written news releases for each scenario.

If there is one thing to walk away with when leaving the IABC Calgary Conference, or any conference in the future, do not file away your stack of notes. A dream without a deadline is still just a dream. Narrow your list, prioritize it, and set a date to follow through with these crucial crisis communications strategies.

Listen to the podcast here.

Crisis Communications: When Social Media is Mandatory, When it is Optional, and When it is Useless in a Crisis

One-Size-TagBy Gerard Braud

Many thanks to Shel Holtz for his crisis communications podcast that explores whether there is ever a right time to take your social media sites dark during a crisis. You can listen to the entire podcast here.

Some folks are appalled at the suggestion of taking a social media site dark and they tweet back to me the names of brands that they think could never go dark in a crisis. But that isn’t the question nor is it why I sparked the debate. The question is, what is right for YOUR brand or corporate social media page?

One size doesn’t fit all in either bathrobes or social media policy.

Here are some important highlights:

1) The world at-large on social media is not your primary audience in a crisis. If the crisis garners coverage by the mainstream media, rapid communications to your employees with simultaneous rapid communications to the media should be done first.

In this excerpt I discuss why tried and true beats shiny and new, as well as understanding the rule of thirds in employee communications.

2) Just because you, as a public relations professional, use social media all day and all night, doesn’t mean the rest of the world does. Know the demographics and digital habits of your employees and customers. There are many companies for which the executive staff and many of the employees still don’t use social media. E-mail is often more effective than a post on Facebook or a Tweet.

In this excerpt I discuss it further.

3) Be brave enough to consider whether your social media site should go dark because your crisis is being complicated by foul comments by certified crazies. Many of you who follow this blog are a communications and PR team of one. You have no one else on the PR staff. You should focus on the audiences that are most important and the communications channels that are most reliable. All companies should place high value on their secure website and direct e-mails to their employees and customers. Those loyal employees and customers will become your advocates and supporters on social media.

I discuss which types of brands could go dark without anyone noticing and which types of high profile brands would likely have to stay up and endure an assault of negative comments.

4) In a crisis, monitoring social media is important. But don’t get sucked into the vortex of trying to be a therapist who “listens” to everyone who has a comment. Don’t get sucked into the vortex of trying to respond to everyone, positive or negative. If possible, identify the high value negative stakeholders and call them on the phone to have a human-to-human conversation. If you see that your social media platform is being overrun by the anonymous crazies, be aware of what they say, but know when to “ignore the mean kids on the playground” and focus on your core audience.

In this excerpt I discuss when you need to let the naysayers have their own discussion on their own social media site, rather than polluting your site.

In conclusion, remember that no two crises are the same and when it comes to social media, one size does not fit all.

This final excerpt looks at what you should do long before your crisis hits.