Laura Petrolino

The Brave New World of Crisis Communications

By: Laura Petrolino | January 23, 2017 | 
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The Brave New World of Crisis Communications Winston Churchill once said:

A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth even gets it’s pants on.

And THAT was before social media.

Needless to say, crisis communications today is a completely different, higher speed, higher risk, contact sport, in which anyone (a customer, a Kardashian, even the President of the United States), can say anything about you or your company, and create giant shockwaves before you’ve realized what’s happened.

So let this post serve as a reminder that you need to have a crisis communication plan in place.

The world we live in does not allow this to NOT be an option.

It’s a Brave New World

From Twitter tirades to fake news, your crisis communication plan must constantly evolve with the platforms available and industry trends.

There are more ways to distribute your message, and likewise more ways to have a negative message go out about you—whether truth or fiction.

Even more importantly—EVERYONE is a reporter.

In the digital world, if you have a smartphone you can record anything and everything.

There is no off the record.

This applies to you and your entire team.

We talk a lot about professional development and keeping on top of trends, and crisis communication is no doubt part of that process.

Monitoring: Find Problems Before They Find You

Which leads us to monitoring.

Whether you use a large scale monitoring tool or a “make your own” listening dashboard,  you need to monitor and you need to do it every single day.

Monitor for:

  • Brand name
  • Product names
  • Tagline or a slogan (if applicable)
  • Competitor’s names
  • Executive team’s names
  • Important industry keywords

While there are numerous monitoring tools out there, budget can’t be an excuse to not monitor consistently.

Set up a free Hootsuite account and create columns with each of the words or keywords outlined above.

Do the same with Talkwalker alerts.

Schedule regular searches in incognito mode.

This should be a key item someone on your team’s task list.

Monitor consistently.

Not only is this crucial for crisis communication, but you’ll learn a TON which you can put use strategically across all four media types.

Crisis Communication Starts Before a Crisis

Crisis communication isn’t just about what you do during a crisis, it’s about what you do before to strengthen your own brand assets and community.

Surprise, surprise, this is yet another reason why it’s so important to use the PESO model and have a strong owned and shared platforms.

The stronger the platforms and content you have out there that you own, the more control you have to get your message out above the noise AND the less volatility of news and search results when something does happen.

Gini Dietrich writes more about this here.

Your reputation is only as good as your search results. Remember that.

The more you can control, the better you are in the long term.

Look at your search results in incognito mode right now.

How many of the hits on the first page are from sources you own and control and how many are from external sources like review sites and news articles?

Do You Have an Actual Crisis Communications Plan?

Often when you ask people:

Is your organization prepared for a crisis?

The majority will say yes.

If you ask:

Do you have a crisis communication plan?

A good portion will still say yes.

But in reality, the plan isn’t a plan at all, but a vague idea in their head of what should be done in a crisis.

Are you one of these people?

Do you have a plan that every person on your team can execute should a crisis occur?

Even if that execution means knowing the protocol to expect and who to look to for further direction?

Do you have a plan that covers online and offline communication?

And how they should work together?

Does your have a plan that can go into action quickly?

Who will speak on behalf of the company?

…..and these questions haven’t even touched the surface.

There is a reason why we practice fire drills in school.

Do the same for your organization.

Crisis Communication 101

We’ve talked a lot about crisis communication here.

Below I’ve curated some of the most valuable posts to help you think about, build, and refine your own crisis communications plan:

Create a Plan

Learn from Examples

Learn What NOT to Do

And there you have it!

Take some time this week to write, update, and/or review your own crisis communications plan.

About Laura Petrolino


Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • I’m not going to lie, my favorite thing about this article is this super cool image! I’m going to use this again.

  • Pete Salmon

    The image is cool, but one of your bottom lines is memorable, valuable, and a little bit cool: “Your reputation is only as good as your search results.”

    • I stole that from Gini. I like to steal things Gini says and make them my own, then I walk away looking much more brilliant than I am. #strategy

    • I loved that too, Pete and guess what, I’m going to use it!

  • Elise Perkins

    Timely post, and amazing round-up at the end. Flagging this for forever. Kudos, Laura!

  • This is a post to bookmark! Thank you for making it easy for us, Laura!

  • Patti Thomas

    Spot on, thanks for the reminders. I’d add that it helps to understand the culture of your organization and how to best communicate with decision makers and convince them of the best course of action/non-action –during a crisis. Trust is key.

    • Oh yes, very true. And again, that’s a “crisis plan” which starts waaaaay before a crisis ever occurs. Great addition Patti

  • paulakiger

    SO many critical points all packed into one post. It says so much about a leader and an organization when they are a) tracking and b) up front in an effort to manage a crisis.

    • Yes, that’s such a good point. You really learn a lot about a leader based on how they handle crisis.

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