Toyota and Tiger have set many social media mavens off on the need for an online crisis management strategy. In truth, the need for a crisis communication plan has always been there but has been made more acute by the speed at which information now spreads. Every business and organization, no matter how upstanding, needs to prepare for the worst, even as they hope for the best.
Here are three vital elements to consider in your crisis communication plan;
- Know Your Vulnerabilities. If you start with a good reputation you will have a better chance of surviving a crisis but don’t be complacent. Do an audit of issues that might lead to public concern. Know where the hot buttons are in your own company and in your industry. Develop positions that address those issues.
- Have a Chain of Command. A crisis doesn’t always happen at a convenient time. In our 24/7 world, someone must always be available to respond. That doesn’t mean waking up the CEO every time a cranky customer tweets about you. Be clear about the different levels of crisis and empower the appropriate people to either deal with it or pass it up a level. Make sure everyone in your organization, from the VP’s to the receptionist knows who to report to if a potential crisis presents itself.
- Be Ready for a Rapid Response. If social media has done anything, it has made the need for a rapid response move from desirable to critical. Social media fills an information vacuum with rumour, conjecture and innuendo. The agenda can be set very early on in a crisis and you must be part of that agenda. Develop general key messages before a crisis hits and make sure all your potential spokespeople are media trained.