In the last few weeks, attention and conversation has spiked around the topic of the separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border. If you’ve spent much time on Facebook you’ve likely seen calls for donations to organizations supporting these immigrant families. The fundraiser for RAICES came up in my feed again and again, so I decided to look into what they were doing to stay so prominent and what lessons nonprofits could take from their moment in the spotlight of this national crisis. Read more after the jump…
The GroundFloor Media crisis team has been spending time reviewing crisis communication plans for our clients, and we are finding several areas that need updating. For instance, unlike five years ago, most crisis events these days don’t manifest only in the media, so there is a large social media component. Also, response scenarios likely need to be updated as well as key audiences to take into account the likelihood of a crisis happening on social media.
In general, the key theme of a crisis-response plan must be providing clear, honest communications to various audiences that might be impacted by the bad news. The crisis response approach is simple and straightforward, and based on three points:
- Don’t cover up
- Fix the problem
- Apologize and make sure it does not happen again
Here’s an outline of a crisis communications response plan:
- Identify and prepare for potential issues
- Communicate with the customer-service and legal teams
- Get the facts and prepare statements
- This covers traditional and social media
- Respond and correct the record
- Get in front of the story
- “No comment” is a last-ditch response
- Accurately convey your side of the story to all audiences
Find out more about elements of a crisis plan in a Denver Business Journal article I wrote. Also, let us know if your business needs help revising its crisis communication plan.
It turns out that Instagram might not be the best social media option if you’re looking for a pick-me-up. According to a survey of 1,500 teens and young adults in the U.K., Instagram is associated with the highest levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO (“fear of missing out”). Though it has its benefits, like self-expression and community building, Instagram users also reported feelings of inadequacy and negative body image. More reason to only follow dog accounts!
Time: Why Instagram Is the Worst Social Media for Mental Health
Though all five of the social networks (name them here) surveyed received negative marks for sleep quality, YouTube was the only one to have a positive net score for health and well-being. Read more after the jump…
At its essence, crisis communications is about taking external negativity and finding a way to transform it into a positive. Are you a business that made a mistake? Find a way to impress your customers with how you responded. They’ll forgive you.
The Cincinnati Zoo ignored this principle when it shut down its Twitter account two months ago in the face of cyberbullying trolls who inundated it with memes and attacks over the death of its beloved gorilla, Harambe. As PRWeek reported:
“The zoo has been the target of keyboard critics since May, after a boy fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, and zookeepers shot and killed Harambe, a 17-year-old silverback gorilla, to save the child’s life. Since then, Harambe has turned into a source of myriad internet memes.”
The Cincinnati Zoo had a spotlight on it, and instead of finding a way to withstand the pressure and use the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to its mission, it chose to run and hide. Standing up in the heat of a crisis is never easy, but it speaks to what you are as an organization, to your core values.
The Cincinnati Zoo could have used the spotlight to engage the community. It could have developed a program to support a gorilla conservation initiative, or created elementary and middle school curriculum that could be used in schools to educate children about gorillas.
And more than anything, it could have earned goodwill from the community by responding to the ridiculous barbs in a dignified and respectable manner. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is amazing how reasonable you can look when your opponents are unhinged lunatics*.”
The Cincinnati Zoo finally restored its Twitter account last week, but the damage has already been done and the opportunities have already been missed.
*Lincoln may have never said that.
All media interviews are not created equal.
Case in point: speaking to a television reporter is different than a newspaper reporter. The former wants quick sound bites and the latter may want more background and an extended interview. During a recent television media training session for one of our clients, the GroundFloor Media team offered the following tips for mastering the television interview:
Look the part: A suit and tie at the dog park is not realistic
Prepare sound bites: Don’t over answer, and remember they will only likely use 20 seconds of what you say
Show some emotion: You are passionate about what you do, show it
Share questions with interviewer: Gently helping them know what to ask can steer the interview in the right direction
Body language matters: Don’t fidget
Speak slowly: Remember to pause, and that you speak faster when you are nervous
Nothing is off the record: If you are miked up, you are on the record
Don’t answer every question: Keep to your messages and sound bites
Be comfortable with silence: Wait for the next question instead of filling the empty space
Practice: This is key. Most of us are not comfortable under the lights
In most cases, television reporters want you to do well on camera, and the more you are prepared the better you will come off on camera. And for most people, speaking in front of a camera is uncomfortable, so practice, practice, practice.
I’m pretty sure everyone agrees that Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll is the biggest loser of Super Bowl XLIX. With just one shockingly bad play call, Carroll went from G.O.A.T. to goat.
But many people are pointing to insurance provider Nationwide as the second-biggest loser of Sunday’s Super Bowl. Its depressing Super Bowl ad aired in the first quarter of the game, and it was widely – and immediately – ripped to shreds. A decade ago, you had to wait for tomorrow’s newspaper to see how people responded. But Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms give advertisers real-time feedback – and allow viewer opinions to quickly go viral.
Fortunately for Nationwide, its social media and public relations team quickly came to the rescue of its focus group-challenged advertising team. Within an hour of the ad airing, Nationwide released a statement online explaining the ad and took to social media to join the conversation. The company noted in part:
This past week a local restaurant in a small Utah town came under fire after one of its cooks posted anti-police sentiment to his personal Facebook page. By the time restaurant owners reacted (by firing the cook and offering free meals to law enforcement officers) it was too late. Local civil rights activists and police watchdogs then joined the conversation, questioning the restaurant’s decision to fire the individual.
It’s a tough call, and particularly these days when reporters are under even more pressure to get a scoop. The concepts of “on background” and “off the record” are confusing even to some seasoned reporters.
In the era of quick-hit reporting and little or no source-building, there are times when it makes sense to provide the media more than simply a short official statement.
In most crisis communication scenarios, a statement is the go-to, tried and true media response. Longer interviews or long responses get shortened or paraphrased—and often misrepresented. There are ways to get an issue across outside of an official statement, but they, too, have pitfalls.
Among those ways is to speak to a reporter off the record.
Read more after the jump…
The National Football League — now under one of the harshest spotlights it’s endured since its inception in 1920 — is at a crossroads where it can either repair its tarnished reputation, or suffer further brand decay, say marketing and sports business experts including GroundFloor Media’s Gil Rudawsky.
Rudawsky says the NFL’s issues are particularly problematic since they are trying to grow its female audience, said Rudawsky, a vice president at GFM.
Anyone who has ever developed a crisis plan knows what a monumental, albeit critical, task it is. At the same time, once it has been drafted and shared with the crisis response team, you never know how effective it is until it has been battle tested with a real crisis. Fortunately many companies and organizations will never endure a full-blown crisis, but for those who do, it’s not something that will soon be forgotten.
In the summer issue of The Public Relations Strategist, an article titled Crisis Communications Plans Built to Fail: 3 Warning Signs and How to Avoid Them is a great reminder of the ongoing scrutiny required to successfully overcome a crisis. The author suggests three warning signs that your crisis plan could fail.
Warning Sign No. 1: You do not have a clear system for reporting a crisis.
The communications team is usually not the first group within a company to identify a crisis. How do you make sure that all of the employees within your organization know when to sound the crisis bell, who to notify, and how to effectively notify them?