5 C’s of an Effective Crisis Communications Team Member

Rick Wion
Rick Wion

It's a given that brands need crisis management teams at the ready, but a workmanlike team just won't do in times of crisis. You want the best. The question is, are there common qualities of truly deft and savvy crisis teams?

Rick Wion, director of social media for McDonald’s, has dealt with his fair share of crises, and believes that the most effective crisis team is one that has been chosen in advance based on specific behaviors and expertise.

Wion, who will speak about crisis communications at PR News’ Social Media 20/20 Summit on August 12 in San Francisco, shared some thoughts on the qualities to seek in crisis team members.

  • Cool - The ability to remain calm when social media is blowing up and executives are getting nervous.
  • Creative – The ability to think differently in not only writing and design but problem solving, and understanding how and when to respond via a traditional media statement or an infographic posted on Tumblr.
  • Connected - The ability to read the tea leaves and identify the trends both in social and traditional media.
  • Cost conscious - Crises are expensive so someone should ask how many resources are really necessary. Also, a cost-conscious, creative problem solver will be able to deploy paid media to help amplify responses.
  • Cover - Someone needs to be able to provide the war room team with air cover—the time, autonomy and empowerment to respond to issues. All too often in a crisis, everyone in marketing and communications suddenly wants to be copywriters.

One other note: Your crisis management team does not have to be exclusively members of the in-house communications shop, Wion says. In fact, it should be a representative cross-section of communicators and management, including the C-suite and division managers. Different departments can bring valuable perspectives to the table that might otherwise be overlooked by a homogeneous group of people.

To learn more about crisis management and social media, join PR News for the Social Media 20/20 Summit taking place on Aug. 12 in San Francisco.

Follow Rick Wion: @rdublife 

Follow Rick Brownell: @rickbrownell