Alex Plaxen,VP of Experience Strategy, has been recognized as a social media influencer at conferences nationwide and honored internationally as an emerging leader in the events industry. Connect with him on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @aplaxen.
Only 49 percent of companies have playbooks for crisis scenarios and less than 10% of events have a crisis communications plan. If you are one of these companies, it's not too late to effectively communicate during an emergency situation, even in the midst of the current pandemic.
If you don’t prepare, you will incur more damage. When I look at existing crisis management-related plans while conducting a vulnerability audit (the first step in crisis preparedness), what I often find is a failure to address the many communications issues related to crisis or disaster response.
A crisis communication plan is less about being prepared for every eventuality than it is about being proactive and responsive. Here are 4 tips you need to know right now:
1. Be proactive
The common factor for failed crisis communications is a failure to provide proactive information, and a lack of engagement. The first place that people go to for information during an emergency is to the authority figure’s social media channel(s). If there is nothing there, they will look elsewhere, and misinformation, attendee distress, and damage to your brand will all be direct results.
Pushing out communications is good, but social communication (responding to comments and questions) is better. Legal is important but that the “court of public opinion” is immediate.
Even if you have no information to share, sharing a post that states 'We have no new information at this time. We will continue to provide updates as more information comes in.' can relieve your attendees’ stress and anxiety."
2. Pick a spokesperson
During a crisis, people want to hear from leaders and experts, not marketers, salespeople, or customer reps. So, pick a spokesperson — someone who will effectively communicate messages to the media, customers, and employees.
Apple does this really well. During the current pandemic, CEO Tim Cook has conducted the company's crisis communications — on Twitter, with employees, and for fundraising events. Cook has communicated clearly in the last few weeks, telling customers and staff members about Apple store closures, health and safety information, and local relief efforts.
Photo credit: Tim Cook / Twitter
3. Keep messages consistent
A consistent message is important during a crisis, especially when lives and jobs are at risk. Frequently changing your cleaning, hand-washing, and social distancing policies during the current pandemic, for example, will harm your credibility and jeopardize your reputation.
In order to achieve a consistent approach to your messaging, make sure all members of your team are on the same page. This includes marketers, event managers, public relations professionals, human resources professionals, and salespeople.
Research shows that consistency increases customer satisfaction, boosts loyalty, and builds trust. Moreover, brands that maintain consistent messaging are worth 20 percent more than brands that don't.
3. Communicate on all platforms
You will need to communicate messages across various platforms to reach the largest number of people. It might be easier to stick with one channel, but not all customers and employees will see your messages.
So, which platforms should you choose? It depends on the demographics. If you want to target all customers and staff members, you should use a combination of social media channels.
A few things to consider:
- Facebook is great for targeting young customers (79 percent of 18-29-year-olds use the platform) but not so great for reaching older ones (only 46 percent of over-65s use it).
- The same goes for Instagram, where 67 percent of 18-29-year-olds use the platform but only 8 percent of over 65s.
- Facebook might be more effective for reaching a male audience (63 percent of men use it) than Instagram (31 percent).
- LinkedIn might be useful for communicating with college graduates as 51 percent of them use this platform.
Source: Pew Research Center
A good example of a brand that utilizes an omnichannel crisis communications strategy is Uber, which notifies customers and employees about how the company is responding to the current pandemic on its Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. Here, the message is consistent across all three platforms.
Photo credit: Uber / Twitter
These quick tips will help your team manage a crisis in the short-term but, ideally, you should enlist the services of a crisis communication expert to engage with customers, handle employees, and increase trust.
Remember, the basic steps of effective emergency management and crisis communications are not difficult. Creating a crisis communications plan comes down to three crucial steps:
- Audit your vulnerabilities
- Train your spokespeople
- Establish a means of communicating
Here at Nifty Method, we create crisis communication strategies that save businesses and events. Due to the current situation, we are offering payment plans for up to 12 months.
Ready to start? Click here for a complimentary consultation with Alex.