A week of Crisis, but is it over…THINK AGAIN

As this week unfolded a series of unfortunate events occurred day after day.  With the Boston Marathon Bombing occurring on Monday, followed by nationwide delay of American Airlines ground flights due to a glitch on Tuesday, and Wednesday Ricin-Laced letter was sent to President Obama and a senator.  Thursday was no different as a horrifying explosion occurred in a fertilizer plant in Texas. Friday local and federal authorizes where on a manhunt to capture the two most wanted brothers, responsible for the Boston Marathon Bombing. Lastly, the week ended with the Colorado avalanche killing 5 snowboarders on Saturday.

It was a PR person’s worst nightmare and the news media’s most hectic week. However, the PR pros did have a little breathing room as the news media was so busy jumping on to the next big event. However, social media filled in the gaps as now every person with a social media account had turned into a amateur journalist. Many new information was out and delivered more quickly via social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter, but many misleading information was also broaden which caused more confusion and panic.  But this is the world we now live in, and it is important to consider the impact of social media in a crisis plan; let along assign a team to manage all outgoing and incoming feeds to contain the situation.

Firstly, thank god this week is over, but the crisis is far from over. Actions have consequences and consequences lead to fixing things back again and determining it doesn’t happen again. Clean up and determining loop holes, while making sure we are prepared for something like this again is the next big job of all the PR practitioners. It is a lesson to learn for others to make sure their Crisis response and communication plan in updated based on the recent crisis that their counterparts faced.  One can only pray for so long, but soon they need to plan and be prepared with ample of practice to execute one day.

Each of the crisis that occurred in this week’s duration all fall under different categories such as act of god, human error, management decision, facility damage, financial damage, and terrorism. Therefore, they all need to be handled differently and the end results can impact all of us; for example; more security. We await to see how each of the agencies involved and their PR departments deal with their respective crisis and further package their post crisis response.

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Death and Injury Crisis

Most injury and death related cases are hyped in news media and in publics’ persona because they affect and involve human inquiry such as panic, threat, emotions, specific people and government involvement, and intense scrutiny. However, a PR pro knows that this type of stories should be approached with careful communication and a certain sensitivity, which needs to be learned via training. Many companies hire PR professionals to train their employees for such crisis. Many professionals who have handled this type of crisis have often suffered from sleepless nights, nightmares, nervousness, and other trauma symptoms.

Death and Injury related cases are not only subjected to terror or hostile acts, they can also be a result of natural disaster, natural death, fire, collapse of a building, human error, and etc. Therefore, a PR professional needs to always be prepared for the expected and the unexpected. Keeping a current vulnerability audit of the organization is a good start to this. Also, research suggest to consult an external PR firm to conduct the vulnerability audit as they are more likely to speculate the worst situation that you may be overseeing. Having a second opinion and a fresh perspective never hurts. Based on the findings of the audit create a crisis management and communication plan.

Having good relations with media personnel goes a long way in this business; being honest and responsive is a great way to start this relation and to gain credibility. Your basic communication plan should involve informing the media, report at the scene of emergency, contact staff and brief them, and identify a spokesperson. It is important that one and only one type of story is spreading; having various versions creates more panic and speculation on anything that you say. It is also wise to have experts with the spokesperson during a press conferences. Together the PR and experts can answer questions specific to their respective agencies.  In today’s cyber socially active world it is important to conduct your first press conference in the first 45 minutes of the crisis; even to just  address the issue and promise to get back with more updates. This puts the organization in proactive and controlling mode. As well as makes the organization the chief source of information, which gives the organization power to push messages which  are controlled and desired.

Lastly, it is very important that you as a PR professional and the legal team understand each other. You will often find yourself fighting with the legal team to use communication strategies and tactics, however if prior understanding is already established this can save you a lot of anxiety during the crisis.

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Social Media’s Effect on PR Crisis

Back when social media did not exist, it is safe to say that it was much easier to contain a situation. With the emergence of social media it has given everyone an opinion and much importantly an audience to hear that opinion. Most people are getting their daily news and gossip updates from these platforms; therefore it is important for organizations to keep track of what is being said about them in the infinite cyberspace. Social media is like a wildfire it attacks everyone and everything in its way and sometimes in the race of putting information out there first many important facts are left out. This type of half/false information can cause even more panic.

Most organizations understand the power that social media possess and are smartly utilizing this platform in their favor.  The recent Carnival Cruise crisis, where the ship Triumph was stranded in the Gulf of Mexico for 5 days after a fire in the engine room caused the power to go out is a classic example. Even before the company can get a  full knowledge of the situation, many passengers had started mocking the cruise line on social media. The Carnival’s disaster became the most famous trend on social media, informing the world about its fiasco. Soon the company decided to set its own page/account addressing the situation. This was a brilliant move as now the company is more proactive than vulnerable.  The crisis team did not only provide the lasted updates but also took this opportunity to rest a lot of rumors.

Social media is growing and every passing day it is uniting the world more strongly. It is a great platform to target a global audience but it is also a place to beware of.  It is important more than ever for organizations to have a radar room, where professionals can monitor what is being discussed about the organization. Early detection can improves outcome results.

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Knives on Plane

There are constantly conflicts happening around the world, sometime old once get out of hand and sometimes new ones surface. This means there is a constant need of a crisis management/communication’s team to adequately handle the situation.

One of the recent emerging crises is Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new policy which would allow pocket knives on planes as soon as April 25. Many people and airline companies have mix feelings about this issue, which has heighten the issue in the media. As American’s we are very sensitive when it come to airplane safety since the September 11 attacks. Under the new rules, knives with blades that are 2.36 inches will be allowed in airline cabins. However, this could be a potential threat to other passengers and airline crew. TSA and its supporters believe the change is for the greater good; sharp objects can no longer bring down aircraft and the search for knives interferes with the search for objects that can threaten aircraft and safety of everyone on board.

Whether you work for TSA or an organization who is concerned about this law for the safety of everyone on board; you need to be prepared and have a crisis plan ready to implement. Thinking forward and being prepared is the biggest rule in crisis management followed by active listening. Listening to your audience makes a world of difference; know what are their concerns are and how can you use this information to make a clear stand on the issue. For TSA they should concentrate on not changing the performance but on changing public perception and for the organization that is against the law they should collaborate with audiences in their support to make the most effective and impactful stand on the issue.

We shall wait and discover if this issue dies off or get’s implemented, in either case we wait to witness how they act and react to public’s concern.

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Source: http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/11/travel/tsa-knives-rule-reaction/index.html

In times of CRISIS,

A crisis is a major occurrence with a potential of a negative outcome, which can not only affect the organization but also the publics, product, service, and stakeholders to mention a few. Therefore, you can just imagine how important it is for a PR practitioner to adequately handle a crisis.

A crisis is not be confused with a problem; however, a crisis can be sudden or smoldering. A well trained and ready PR team will always have an up-to-date crisis management and communication plan ready to implement.

The seven sins of crisis communication are:

1. Rushing to judgment

2 . Unpreparedness

3. Over-reacting

4. Silence

5. Untruthfulness

6. Distancing

7. Doing it alone

Some of the most popular crisis fall under one of the following categories; white collar crimes, mismanagement, workplace violence, casualty accidents, financial damage, and labor dispute to name a few.

At the PRSSA’s Real World Conference held in Atlanta last weekend, some of the industry pioneers mentioned that “PR is dancing in the moment.” Therefore one should always be on their toes and ready to display a performance.  Because when the world is your audience you only get one take and there is no room for errors. It is very important to be honest and truthful right away to the media and the publics, it is also important to not avoid any media scrutiny as this can only start rumors and make situation worse. Reporters trust you more when you respond, provide them with updates every so often even if it is a minor update, it makes them feel they are in the loop.

The seven signs of credible communication are:

1. Candor

2. Explanation

3. Declaration

4. Contrition

5. Consultation

6. Commitment

7. Restitution

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Five effective Crisis Management lessons to learn for BP

I am sure most of you remember the terrible BP oil spill incident in the Gulf of Mexico and the massive crisis it caused the company in 2010. Ever since, the British oil giant company has been in recovery and has set a multimillion dollar nationwide PR campaign to restore its image and its position on environmental conservation.  Over the past three years BP has pictured the Gulf as a restored place with sparkling beaches, flourishing businesses, happy fishermen, and a place for tourist to must visit.

What can we learn from BP; this was BP’s worst nightmare come true, BP always knew that an oil spill could be a potential threat in the future.  Therefore, I am sure they had an effective crisis communication and management plan already in place; lesson one, prepare for the worst. However, their plan was not reached and known to the key members of the organization, e.g. the BP chief had remarked “I want my life back,” in a press conference following the catastrophe. Lessons two, conduct drills with staff and prepare them for future crisis; tip: conduct a mock press conference with camera’s so you’re CEO and other top spokesperson’s get more comfortable with expressions and dialogue delivery. Lesson three, maintain a timeline as events unfold, this gives you something to look back and re-evaluate your crisis plan for the future. Lesson four, invest money in research, trust me it is well worth it, because you want to understand your audience first and then connect with them on a personal and emotional level. All the ads, banners, radio commercials, and other strategy BP used became implemented after a thorough analysis of publics emotional level and their current feelings towards BP. Lastly, lesson five, always learn from your mistakes, acknowledge your mistake and take the initiative to rectify the situation.

Crisis happen every day and everywhere to everyone, it is how you prepare for it and choose to react makes a world of difference. 

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Social Media emerges during #blackout

It has been reported by CNN that during the epic failure  #blackout during Super Bowl XLVll there were 231,000 tweets generated PER MINUTE, and the #blackout lasted for about 31 minutes. Clearly when the Superdome blacked out social media light up, more than it ever did during the game. Most of America was already tuned in to watch the big game either for the love of the game or just to see the million dollar commercials. But apparently everyone had something to say, someone to blame for the big fail. PR is all about taking the opportunity and major brands like Oreo, Tide, and Audi took advantage of the moment and started social media advertising which reached so many people, for FREE.

Oreo: “You can still dunk in the dark”

Tide laundry detergent:  “We can’t get your #blackout, but we can get your stains out. #SuperBowl #TidePower.”

Audi:  “Sending some LEDs to the @MBUSA Superdome right now…” 

Events like these were often a social gathering of close friends and family but with people increasingly wanting to share their thoughts and experiences with everyone, our social events just got much bigger, on a global scale. It is important for brand to take advantage of this social change. It won’t surprise me to see if brands and businesses get more focused on social media during these types of huge events than solely rely on traditional methods.

So, if you are one of those people who ever wonder why social media should come under PR, well brands are vulnerable online without a strong reputation management leader. Social media should not only be used to communicate with publics during a crisis or to push an agenda, but should take an advantage of each situation and find a way to connect with its publics on their level. It is all about being on the same level these days, people should feel like they can relate to a brand and can have a two way relation.  Reaching the audience is the most important part of PR.

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