In today's hyperactive, always-on-the-go digital-crazed world we live in... where one misplaced Tweet can undo a lifetime of brand equity, having a crisis management plan in place is imperative. But does it make sense to pay an added expense for proper reputation management?
Chartis, a division of AIG, recently launched a new insurance product that would cover the cost of crisis communications counsel for companies facing a public relations debacle. No stranger to bad press, it seems AIG now understands the importance of outside help during a crisis. AIG claims the policy would cover services rendered even before a crisis has hit the press. It requires policy holders to use one of two mega firms and surely charges mega premiums to match. While I’m doubtful reputation insurance is a worthwhile investment, planning ahead for a crisis that hasn’t happened yet and selecting the outside company or consultant you would work with in the event one did is a terrific idea.
Once a crisis hits, it is critical to respond immediately. If the window for responding to a crisis used to be hours, given today’s social media and 24-hour news environment, it now has to be minutes. And of course it’s even more critical to hit the right tone and take the proper steps out of the gate. Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and just five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Ask any business executive if they think they need a crisis communications plan and the answer will probably be no, but a 2011 Crisis Preparedness survey conducted by Burston and Marsteller reveals that more than half of businesses decision makers have already experienced a company crisis. What does that tell you? Who would have thought that a fully vetted ad campaign by an innocuous company like Chapstick could lead to a public relations crisis, but that’s just what happened last October.
A common excuse for not being more proactive is “How can I prepare for something I can’t predict?” While it’s true you can’t anticipate every eventuality, there are some steps you can take to be as prepared as possible. These include:
Monitoring – It is critical to monitor the internet and social media sites to be the first to know of complaints, scandals, attacks or outright lies that could impact your company. Google Alerts and sites like socialmention are a start, but more sophisticated monitoring tools may be worth the investment and should at least be researched and considered in case of a crisis.
Scenario Planning – Not only does planning for how your company would react given a specific and plausible scenario help your preparedness for a crisis, it can also help you identify risks you haven’t considered.
Identify Your Team – Decide who will be on your crisis communications team and who your spokesperson will be. It is critical to choose the right spokesperson and make sure that person has media training with a professional.
Checklist – Create a checklist of your important audiences and how you will communicate with them. Be sure that your staff is at the top of that list since they can be your best ambassadors. If you don’t already have a service for disseminating mass e-mails, research them and identify the one you will use if necessary.
Find An Expert – Unless you have a seasoned crisis communications expert in-house, you should research and identify the consultant or agency you will work with in case of a crisis. Ideally, you should work with them on some of these advance planning initiatives so they are not coming into your company cold.
Unfortunately, chances are pretty good your business will experience a crisis. Consider the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”