Some Key Crisis Lessons From PRNEWS 2019 Summit

We can't wait for our 2020 Crisis and Measurement Summit, taking place February 25-26 at Miami's Downtown Hilton. Sure, maybe part of that has to do with the idea of flying down south for the winter.

But moreover, we were thrilled to see such a turnout at this past February's inaugural crisis summit—a sellout crowd that flocked to Miami Beach for two days of real talk about every stage in crisis prep and recovery.

Ahead of this year's summit, let's look back on a few takeaways that changed the way we, and our audience, think about measuring, communicating, and staffing around a crisis.

Build a listening culture

Build a listening culture in your company where staff is empowered to speak up when they spot things that could be amiss. Use internal surveys to gain information from staff about pain points. Often crisis lurks near those trip wires.

Setting this expectation is also a matter of sound measurement. You should be able to ‘hear’ potential crises brewing both internally and externally (listening to conversations on social). If concerns are measured in a particular area, then that should be seen as an area ripe for a crisis.

Monitoring tools are only useful in context

Sure, monitoring tools will help you listen to the tone of conversations happening in the media (social and traditional) about your brand. But don't overreact. It's important to ask, “Who is having these conversations? Are they the right or wrong people? Are they top tier or not?”

An honest apology goes a long way

Know when to apologize. Do it simply and with proper tone. Sometimes saying you’re sorry is absolutely necessary to turn the tide. This is where a good reputation built up over years can help your brand recover.

Whether you're communicating through social media or other channels, this apology should feel conversational, using human language. Strive to sound real, as opposed to something that seems canned or robotic.

Have cross-departmental support ready when the storm hits

The message volume builds around your brand during a crisis will be like opening a fire hydrant. Be certain to have sufficient employee resources for human response. Consider borrowing staff from other departments. Formulating a series of responses in advance can help ease the burden on non-communications staff and avoid a robotic-sounding response.

Watch the internal conversation around a crisis. How your community responds tells you a lot about how to react. As a communicator, you are well-placed to spot potential crisis since you work across the enterprise, but not everyone in your organization will feel as empowered. Build relationships with human resources, IT, operations, and customer service so you can know in advance where pain points reside and potential crisis looms.

Consider investing in a digital crisis stress test, which helps identify weaknesses in an organization’s crisis-preparedness regime. Keep the CEO off the crisis team (if not, everyone will defer to the CEO and the authenticity level will drop). Ideally, team members will have a similar rank within the organization, so that a more open and honest conversation can be had about responses.