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.
The best tool in your crisis communications tool belt is, and always will be, message mapping. A message map serves as a template for creating communications that are clear, concise, and consistent. This blog post examines how to build one and put it into action.
It is beneficial to anybody communicating on behalf of your organization or event during a crisis, such as your designated spokespeople, your social media team, your marketers, and even those speaking on stage at your event.
When creating a crisis communications plan, we often categorize the types of crises that can occur. Most crises fall into one of ten categories including natural, technological, confrontational, crisis of malevolence, organizational misdeeds, workplace violence, crisis due to rumors, bankruptcy, sudden crisis, and lastly, smoldering crisis. For some in the industry, the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak seems sudden, but in reality, it would be categorized as a smoldering crisis or one that slowly builds over time.
This is unfortunate and fortunate for the any industry, but particularly events and hospitality. On the one hand, unfortunately, smoldering crises are often the hardest to recognize as they build, leaving us to feel the impacts all at once rather than giving us time to plan ahead. On the other hand, fortunately, due to the nature of the crisis, unless your event is occurring in the next week or so, we have the time to think strategically about crafting our communications.
The first step of in the message mapping process is identifying the main idea you want to convey to your audience. This idea has to be consistently demonstrated throughout all your communications. Yes, that includes emails, videos, tweets, and graphics.
What are some of the sample questions your message map should contain?
Consider the answers to the following questions when crafting your main idea:
- What is the crisis you’re addressing?
- Are you amending an issue or answering queries?
- Who is your audience? (Attendees? Exhibitors? Sponsors? Friends and family of attendees?)
- What is your audience concerned about?
- How do you want your audience to feel?
- Why are you communicating in the first place?
How to Craft Your Key Message
Following the creation of your main idea, it’s time to figure out what your three key messages are. The purpose of these key messages is to support your main idea and convince your audience to believe it. Less than three is not enough, and more than four can appear cluttered and complicated.
Remember to be as concise as possible while still communicating effectively. Commonly your three key messages would consist of a message explaining what happened, a message of empathy or understanding, and a message explaining what was done to resolve the situation.
Lastly, sharing your three key messages without anything to support them can appear to be lip service and disingenuous. That’s why it’s extremely important to have three proof points for each key message. Proof points are exactly that, proof. They serve as evidence to your audience that you mean what you say.
Bringing Your Message Map From Strategy to Action
Your key messages and proof points should be shared together in order to communicate your main idea most effectively. This can be done as a press release, email, landing page on your website, or as a series of social media posts.
"Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes but don’t quit."
– Conrad Hilton
Following the release of these messages, it is important to continue to monitor the responses you get in order to determine if you were successful, if your audience appears satisfied, and whether or not additional communication is necessary. Any additional messages should always refer back to the main idea.
Where to Find Help for Creating a Crisis Communications Plan
Although a message map is a useful tool in a crisis, it is a small part of a much larger picture and is not intended to replace a good crisis communication plan. If your organization does not have a crisis communications plan, please contact us at Nifty Method Marketing + Events for assistance in the creation of one.