There are few things as frightening, potentially damaging and as misunderstood as a crisis. Here are five things about crisis communications that may be counter intuitive but are absolutely true: Read more after the jump…
To help prepare, here is a list of the most commonly asked questions by the media to serve as a general guide.
Big? picture, journalists are likely to ask six primary questions in a crisis: who, what, where, when, why, and how. They will relate to five broad topics:
- What happened?
- What caused it to happen?
- What does it mean?
- Who is to blame?
- What are you doing to ensure it does not happen again?
Of course, only some will apply but this comprehensive list of questions is a good start to prepare you and your team for the next crisis:
77 Questions Commonly Asked by Journalists During a Crisis
Journalists are curious, sometimes to a fault.
In the drive to get a story first, some reporters will ignore rules of conduct and basic journalism. Then there are the ones with not-so-hidden agendas of their own or those pushed by their bosses.
In these cases, it’s perfectly appropriate to close the door and turn off future access. This type of behavior cannot be condoned, and as the media landscape becomes even more frayed, PR professionals need to take a stand against bad behavior.
Trust me, there is not much worse for a reporter or a publication than to have their news sources cut them off. For public companies, this is difficult given disclosure rules, but stanching the information flow will make life difficult for journalists’ with low standards.
Here are some types of bad journalistic behavior:
Lack of journalistic integrity. This one covers the gamut. A good and realistic example is knowingly presenting only part of a story to grab a bigger headline or teaser. I used to tell my reporters the best news story is one that upsets both sides of the story, not just one.
Lack of fairness. This covers one-sided reporting, such as writing about the filing of a suit but not its dismissal, or focusing on the handful detractors of a deal instead of the majority of those in favor.
Violating stated rules of conduct. Journalists do not have carte blanche to break the law or violate rules that protect people’s privacy. Regardless of the news, journalists need to follow the rules, and not, for instance, trespass and violate privacy statutes.
Agenda-driven. Yes, media outlets are run by corporate executives, and they have agendas. We work with one publication that, no matter the story topic, will use it as a soapbox against a particular industry we represent. We no longer cooperate, after being dragged through the mud several times.
Poor reporting. This is the easiest to determine. These reporters are better suited to another profession, but through attrition or other means they have maintained steady jobs in the industry and even moved up in the ranks. They consistently get facts wrong and butcher quotes. They are not your friends, and they will never be able to turn the corner toward good journalism.
Unfortunately, I’ve run into all of the above, most in the last several weeks. Take these journalists off your pitching lists, and when you do get a call from them, don’t offer them any information.
Yes, this seems to go against what we do as a profession, but ultimately we are doing what’s best for our clients and, maybe, deterring these bad behaviors.
(This blog post also appears on PRDaily.com)
If you kept up with the news over the weekend, you are surely aware of the sudden resignation of Sunflower Markets CEO Michael Gilliland following allegations of child prostitution. As the old saying goes, it takes a lifetime to build a reputation and only hours to tear it down – and this case is no different. One of GroundFloor Media’s crisis experts, Gil Rudawsky, sat down to outline some of the lessons learned from this situation, including some of the following highlights:
- Revisit your crisis communication plan
- If you don’t have a plan – it’s a great time to get a crisis communication plan in place
- While planning, brainstorm the unimaginable. As you can tell from the headlines in the paper, the unimaginable happens more than you might think.
Our office recently caught a wicked case of basketball fever, mainly because GroundFloor Media Vice President Ramonna Tooley’s Alma Mater, Butler University, continued to take down larger and higher-ranked opponents during the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
After Butler secured a spot in the Final Four, one question from a co-worker caught my attention, “Is this normal? How does this smaller team keep beating these high-profile teams?” In hindsight the answer is very similar to describing how smaller companies can utilize social media to compete with much larger companies:
1) A Cohesive Team
Butler may not have the same caliber of players as a Syracuse or a Duke, but their athletes play really well together, and everyone knows their role – they follow The Butler Way. Similarly, many larger companies have issues with how to manage social media. Some of the most effective social media outreach comes from those companies who understand that social media should be as organic as possible. For some companies like Seattle’s Discovery Wellness Center, that means allowing one or two individuals to serve as the “voice” of the company, and all messages are filtered accordingly (in their case, it’s the CEO). Others like Zappos understand that all employees should have voice, and everyone can contribute equally. The first step is ensuring that everyone is on the same page, and then ensuring that everyone knows their role and executes flawlessly. This can sometimes be much easier to accomplish with a smaller staff or fewer departments.
2) A Solid Game Plan
You’re going to have a hard time winning if you don’t have a good plan in place. Butler’s players knew their match-ups, recognized strengths and weaknesses, and everyone knew where they should be on each play. Companies who integrate their social media plans into their traditional marketing and public relations programs are going to have a larger opportunity for success. Similarly, does your company have a social media response/crisis plan? Does everyone on your social media team know what constitutes a proper response or the best way to take a customer issue offline? There are a few recent examples of how things can turn bad quickly for companies if you don’t have that plan in place.
Butler may not have six former McDonald’s All-Americans on their team (as Duke does), but they do have several players who can be relied upon to step up and play to that level. It’s just as important for companies to bring their social media talent to the forefront. I’m personally not a proponent of Twinterns, but “social media experts” will only have 4-5 years of experience with social media due to its newness compared to other components within the public relations discipline. That might be the 15-year veteran who was an early adopter, or it could be the 24-year-old who also has a keen sense for overall communications. Regardless, make sure you’re putting your best players in the game.
4) A Little Luck
A couple of inches were all it would have taken for that half-court, last-second shot to go in and change the National Championship game. And maybe the timing of a Tweet or the right influencer seeing your blog post at the right time could make all of the difference in your social media efforts. But putting the right tools in place and having a solid plan put mid-major Butler in the same company as Duke, West Virginia and Michigan State, all powerhouse programs from the “Big 5” athletic conferences. Social media offers the same type of opportunities for smaller companies trying to compete with much larger marketing and public relations budgets.