For a communicator to handle a crisis effectively, he or she needs to be looking around the corner to see what a company’s potential threats and crises are, and have infrastructure set up in advance. So said Dallas Lawrence, chief global digital strategist for Burson-Marsteller, at PR News’ One-Day Bootcamp for Emerging PR Stars in Hollywood, Fla., held on Monday, March 18.
Lawrence provided 13 lessons for crisis preparation and management.
Lesson 1: Know and engage key conversations drivers early and often. Twitter is a conversation tool and not just a one-way medium. “In times of crisis, we need to think about the key influencers following the issue and engage with them to get them information as well," Lawrence said.
Lesson 2: Actively monitor not just your reputation, but also the activities of your protagonists.
Lesson 3: Develop clear, effective and platform appropriate messaging. In other words, be where your crisis is happening. “If your crisis is happening on YouTube, make your response a YouTube video,” Lawrence said. “Have the capability to shoot that video. If it's Friday at 5:00 and you need to shoot a video of your CEO, do you know the logistics of being able to do that?”
Lesson 4: Own your brand in social before someone else does. “Less than one-half of the Interbrand Top 100 Companies have registered their brands on Pinterest.”
Lesson 5: Leverage the power of Twitter. "Forty-six percent of journalists use twitter for sources," Lawrence said.
“I routinely track down potential interviews by sending out a tweet. Most recently, we came across a number of Toyota car owners who fell under the recent recalls.” —Chris O‘Conell, ABC News anchor/reporter
Lesson 6: People want to hear from people, not logos. Figure out right now who is going to be communicating for you in a crisis, and make your Twitter picture something other than just your logo in order to humanize your brand, Lawrence said.
Lesson 7: Integration is key. “Video is incredibly powerful, but it’s useless if you don't share it in a variety of ways with your audiences,” Lawrence said. “This isn’t Kevin Costner in ‘Field of Dreams’—If you build it, they will not just come.”
Lesson 8: Be sure you know what you're talking about during a crisis. “The only thing worse than saying nothing is saying the wrong thing,” Lawrence said. Yes, you must move quickly during a time of crisis, but that doesn't give you a reprieve from fact-checking anything you plan to tell the public.
Lesson 9: When you blow it, own up to it: “When Ashton Kutcher tweeted his outrage after Joe Paterno got fired, he had to admit that he really knew nothing about the subject. Lawrence said that, while that was an avoidable scenario, Kutcher did properly tweet afterwards, "As of immediately I will stop tweeting until I find a way to properly manage this feed. I feel awful about this error. Won’t happen again."
Lesson 10: Consider humor. “If your product is killing people or animals are washing up on shore humor might not be right, but if it's an embarrassing moment for an individual, it could be,” Lawrence said.
Lesson 11: Integrate paid and earned. “Paid does have a role if it's integrated and used effectively,” Lawrence said. “With Twitter, when an earned media story is won and you want to increase its visibility, it’s an extremely effective way to amplify your messaging.”
Lesson 12: Have clear employee rules and train for social engagement. “Make sure they know the rules of the road so they don't make the kinds of mistakes we've all seen before,” Lawrence said.
Lesson 13: Don't forget your secret weapon. Your employees can be your most powerful allies online, if you engage and arm them in time. “Who has the biggest investment in the survival of a company? The people who get a paycheck.” Lawrence said.