Imagine if someone assessed the needs of PR professionals and created a seamless, all-in-one, virtual tool to guide organizations and companies through the entire PR crisis process.
This creation would include a central online area for crisis planning. It might even suggest and schedule crisis preparation exercises. In addition it would feature monitoring capabilities for social and traditional media.
At the outset of a crisis the tool automatically would offer holding statements, prompt activation of personnel, contacting key executives regardless of their location or device they’re using. It would schedule team huddles, send reminders and provide data in advance to participants.
It might even offer suggested dates for debriefing sessions, checking the availability of necessary personnel.
The Human Element
While broad-ranging crisis tools sound like an ideal solution, some crisis pros say they’re years away. It will take time for tech to catch up with crisis needs.
“Like other critical business areas, there is a maturity of technology going on in crisis management as the need and the frequency have grown,” says Christopher Britton, GM, RockDove, a tech provider.
Similarly, Michelle Lyng, CEO and founder of Novitas Communications, echoes a theme about AI-powered tools heard in other areas of PR. Humans continue to offer things tools can’t replicate. “As much as society tries to automate processes, crises require more than AI can provide at this time,” Lyng says.
She adds, “The best managers know that a crisis requires empathy, understanding, reading of nuance, and quick, and I mean minute-to-minute, reaction.”
Despite the velocity of many tools, they’re still not fast enough. “We can’t wait for a dashboard to give us information from a day or an hour ago, because the situation is typically progressing at lightning speed,” Lyng says.
She also notes the importance of media relations in mitigating crises. “Sometimes, we even glean information from the media, who are calling [and] asking for a statement...commenting [on and] correcting stories or offering context or background information to influence a story isn’t necessarily something that” a dashboard can handle now.
For Jon Goldberg, chief reputation architect at Reputation Architects, it’s a definition problem. The term crisis-management platform “means different things to different people.”
He adds, “Is it an emergency alert/messaging platform? A platform for running simulations and exercises? A social listening and crisis surveillance platform?”
Indeed, almost everyone we spoke with mentioned jury-rigging a tech stack of one-off tools for crisis monitoring, project management, document sharing, networking and more.
“We use several platforms, some in partnership with vendors. Others are systems we create by stitching together multiple tools,” says Adam Abrams, a partner at SevenLetter. “Every crisis is different. So, our approach is to custom-fit tools for each one.”
The Future is Here
That’s not to say there’s little demand for the all-in-one solution described above. Indeed, vendors and crisis pros are working to fill the void.
For example, the Institute for Crisis Management (ICM) recently partnered with vendor RockDove to provide what the companies say is an all-inclusive crisis-management package.
ICM provides the human element, a communication plan and crisis playbook with risk assessment and implementation training. RockDove populates the plan into its In Case of Crisis 365 dashboard, offering a customized crisis-planning and management platform.
Says Deb Hileman, president and CEO, ICM and a Crisis Insider contributor, as the pandemic accelerated adoption of communication technologies, business evolved beyond a traditional paper-based crisis plan.
Tools can help employees prepare for, identify and respond to emerging threats better and faster, Hileman believes.
Reason for Hope
However skeptical some crisis communicators are about an end-to-end crisis-management platform, undoubtedly there are benefits.
“From not having accurate and timely information to coordinating communication across departments to having approved holding statements, the need for a platform approach is significant,” Britton argues.
He says a holistic crisis-management platform can help break silos, instantly combine internal incident reports and external threat alerts and provide a full scenario of emerging threats.
In addition, tools can efficiently alert teams. And a helpful crisis tool can access scenario-based protocols with intelligent workflow and assign and track progress in real-time. Last, he says, tools can prepare and communicate with key stakeholders using role-based playbooks, mass notifications and collaboration services.
Not a Panacea
Yet Goldberg warns against thinking technology is a silver bullet. “Organizations are easily wooed into believing it can magically manage a crisis for them,” he says. “Technology can make it easier to keep track of people, deliver critical information, keep the arsenal of protocols, messages and materials up to date and make sure everyone has access to the same versions of things.”
Still, he believes technology can’t “replace the critical thinking and intuition of a well-trained and routinely pressure-tested crisis team.” Yet.
Nicole Schuman is senior editor, PRNEWS.