We live in a world where news is discussed and disseminated with increasing speed -- reporters are embedded in the live stream with companies, customers, and employees, and there are limitless potential news outlets. Whether the crisis lives online or off line, a company still needs to plan for all possible contingencies and scenarios, do a situation analysis to respond -- and recover.
I feel the same thing is true for understanding a crisis and navigating risk as it is for business in general -- you need to make a commitment to doing it. Some of the things you'll need to think about are, at a minimum:
- how you handle situation analysis
- how you handle speed
- who needs to be involved
- what does your decision tree look like
- what does your monitoring dashboard look like
Not every situation develops into a crisis. And not every crisis becomes a PR disaster. Regardless of whether a crisis in crisis PR is looming, more and more businesses are in active and public situations with social media. Many of them have not factored that into their plans and team composition.
Here are some scenarios right off the digital headlines. For each of them, ask yourself:
- What would the best course of action be for the company and people involved?
- How should they handle the potential or real fallout from the occurrence?
- How should they keep it from turning into a crisis?
- Is talking and reacting fast the best course of action?
How a 13-year old gained 16,000 fans on Facebook in 96 hours to help his grandfather, a decorated police officer of 19 years, was dying of stage 4 lung
Because of a loophole, his employer, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, had denied him benefits and cut his pension from $3000/month to $700/month. Officer Ludwig was forced to sell his home, declare bankruptcy, and live in the basement of one of his son’s homes.
Officer Ludwig passed away on August 10. The page now has 22,689 fans.
It looks like the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit official page was taken down. The community started creating Metro pages to comment on and leave images of the now deceased and his story.
Something that would have been a private or localized story, becomes a global conversation.
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For those who have not read the story, Steve Slater, shortly after noon Monday, when JetBlue flight 1052 arrived at the gate at New York's John F. Kennedy International from Pittsburgh International, quit his job dramatically: by exiting via the inflatable evacuation slide.
Aside from the many Facebook pages dedicated to Steven Slater, including a "What Would Steve Slater Do?" page, the story is all over mainstream media.
Now we're touching upon employment law, customer issues, FAA regulations, mainstream media interest, and social media chatter.
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Then, there's Hewlett-Packard inviting a PR disaster. There are more than 10,000 HP speculation stories across the globe
today. And by the looks of things, it's only the tip of the iceberg.
Any time the crisis flies in more than several hundred directions, you know it's botched. Now, business reporters (people who are always looking for exciting stories because the daily stories aren't always so exciting) are looking at every angle. They are making mountains everywhere and they are doing it well beyond the scope of the initial crisis, which was a mole hill by comparison.
A blog search for the CEO's name delivers 536,000 results. Many of them are not exactly flattering. Apparently, he was the most despised CEO by employees.
As Rich Becker says in a headline to his post, bad crisis communication plans magnify, multiply, and amplify. Just like good social media strategies.
You may not possibly plan for every single contingency or scenario. You do need to think about how you would handle a public crisis, and make that plan an action plan. The best PR and social teams will not save you from poor business decisions or analysis paralysis.