I followed a MOOC regarding crisis communication and crisis management and I though that a summary will be useful for all passionate about communication like me. So, please take it as a working tool and do not hesitate to send me your comments to improve it.
WHAT IS CRISIS COMMUNICATION ?
Crisis is everything what keeps an organization not performing its mission
Something real, perceived, from nature, human error or you have no control over
Having a crisis plan can limit the damages (reputation !)
Find out who the key audience is and how best to reach them
– Is not one-sided
– Involves more than words (body language, tone of voice, attitude,…)
– Needs to pay attention to different groups (gender, racial, cultural, … backgrounds)
Know your audience !
Common communication issues
1. Your message isn’t reaching your key audience (what channels are used ?)
2. Your key audience doesn’t understand your message (language “too” complicated ?)
3. Your key audience disagree with your message of find it offensive (try tp meet the opponents)
4. The media misrepresents your message (organize a press conference or meet the journalists)
THE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH A CRISIS IS TO PLAN IT BEFORE IT HAPPENS → all organizations should have a crisis committee and a crisis plan, including the following elements
1. Determine the seriouseness of the situation
a. Possible negative consequences to the organization ?
b. What to do to minimize them ?
2. Develop position statements, anszer to potential questions
3. Notify everyone who has a major role in the organization
4. Appoint a “spokesperson” to deal with the media
a. Never refuse to talk to a reporter
b. If you don’t know the answer, say so
c. Say “I am not going to answer this question” if you don’t want to give details
d. Ask when the paper will be published
e. Assume what you say
5. Oversee the crisis management process : update regularly
6. After a crisis, bring all interested parties up to date
7. Thank everyone who helped to handle the situation
• Find out what the problem is
• Be honest in all situations, have the door open for conversation and common ground
• Talk with opponents
• Be flexible
• Treat everyone with respect
• Always take responsibility and apologize for anything that was your fault
• Repeat your message so that people remember in the long run
Identify the problem
Try to talk with your key audience / opponents face to face, listen, keep communication open and stress similarities rather than differences between you
Be honest, avoid rethoric, be flexible without betraying your mission
Always take responsibility and apologize when error is yours
Keep restating your message clearly, in terms people can understand, calmly, with facts
TYPE OF CRISIS
3 elements are common to a crisis :
A threat to the organisation
The element of surprise
A short decision time
“process of transformation where the old system can not longer be maintained”, not the routine
Crisis management : dealing with threats before, during and after they have occurred
Identify, assess, understand and cope with a serious situation
8 types of crisis
1. Natural disaster
2. Technological crisis
5. Organizational misdeeds
6. Workplace violence
8. Terrorist attack / man-made disaster
Crisis management stages
• Detection (warning signs ?)
• Prevention (crisis preventable or not ?)
• Response (“application of preparation”)
• Recovery (post-crisis)
• Manage issues, repitation-relationships
• Scan, collect, analyse information
• Take preventive action if needed
• Evaluate threat reduction effectiveness
Crisis preparation & planning
• Diagnose vulnerabilities
• Access crisis types
• Select, train, team/spokespersons
• Develop crisis management plan
• Recognize organizational, managerial, individual team challenge process
Recovery & follow-up
• In-person updates & conversation with staff
• Manager rounds to all patients
• Security update to staff, patients & visitors
• Resources for employees
• Employees forums
• Identify weaknesses & resolve
• Review crisis communication plan & adjust as necessary
• Create a timeline of activities & share with leadership
• Debrief with communication staff
Some crisis response strategies
• Attach accuser, scapegoat
• (Deny crisis exists)
• (Minimize seriouseness)
• Deny intention or volition
• Provide money or compensation
Internal communication vehicules
• Q&A security tips
• Tips for managers
• Talking points for patients & visitors
• Incident update emails
• Incident briefings & plasma screens
• Intranet microsite / home page
External communication vehicules
• Social media
• Media releases
• Home page update
Types of crisis response
How could crisis response could affect perceptions of company differently ?
Align the perception to protect the image of the company & the CEO in case of corporate crisis
Both the messenger and the message matter> The CEO who provides the response is judged separately from his/her company. Apology is the most conservative but may be the safest response. A denial response or a lie is proven as risky.
Remain silent in the wake of a crisis can be a dangerous approach : the competitors, disgruntled workers or other stakeholders can define the crisis in the eyes of the public. Remember that what you say can be used against you.
The evolution of using social media in disaster response
No one can deny the power of social networking but must learn how to use the social media ! Tell your followers why they should follow you…
Use #FollowFriday or #TriAlerts as keywords
Social media is not expensive of you just remember to network and use the tools available to you.
Ex: RedCross & Dell launch a Digital Operations Center to empower communities suffering during disasters to use social tools to seek help
PREPARING FOR A CRISIS
How to prepare for a crisis : Crisis Communication Plan (CCP)
Developing a strategic plan
• What’s the purpose of the company ?
• Write a mission statement that tells customers, employees and others why your organization exists (slogan)
• Identify core values or beliefs that will guide the behavior of members of the organization
• Assess the company’s stenghts, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT)
• Establish goals and objectives (numbers, %,…), or performances targets to direct all the activities that you’ll perform to achieve your mission
• Develop and implement tactical and operational plans including plans for contingency (alternatives) and crisis to achieve goals and objectives
Crisis Communication Plan
Information to know during a crisis
• What is happening ?
• Is anyone in danger ?
• How big is the problem ?
• Who reported the problem ?
• Has a response started ?
• What resources are on scene ?
• Who is responding so far ?
• Is everyone’s location known ?
Plan = the prepared scenario document that organizes information into responsibilities and lines of communications prior to an event
4 critical elements
• Crisis communication team members with contact information
• Designated spokersperson
• Meeting place/location
• Media plan with procedures
• Decides what actions to take
• Carries out those actions
• Offers expertise or education in the areas relevant to the crisis
• Maintain connectivity
• Be readily accessible for the news media
• Show empathy for the people involved
• Allow distributed access
• Streamline communication process
• Maintain information security
• Ensure uninterrupted audit trails
• Deliver high volume communications
• Support multi channels communications including social media
• Remove dependencies on paper board processes
Successful managers decide where they want the organization to go and then determine how to get there.
Planning for a business starts at the top and works its way down.
It begins with strategic planning—the process of establishing an overall course of action.
Step one is identifying the purpose of the organization.
Then, management is ready to take the remaining steps in the strategic planning process:
Prepare a mission statement that describes the purpose of the organization and tells customers, employees, and others what it’s committed to doing.
Select the core values that will guide the behavior of members of the organization by letting them know what is and isn’t appropriate and important in conducting company activities.
Use SWOT analysis to assess the company’s strengths and weaknesses and its fit with the external environment.
Set goals and objectives, or performance targets, to direct all the activities needed to achieve the organization’s mission.
Develop tactical plans and operational plans to implement objectives.
What is a Crisis Management Team (CMT) ?
A crisis can create 3 related threats
• Public safety
• Financial loss
• Reputation loss
Crisis management can be divided into 3 phases
• Crisis response : concerned with prevention and preparation
• Post-crisis : better prepared for next crisis and fulfills commitments made during the crisis including follow-up information
Crisis Preparation Best Practices
Crisis Media Training Best Practices
Crisis Communication Channel Preparation Best Practices
Initial Crisis Response Best Practices
Master List of Reputation Repair Strategies
Crisis Types by Attribution of Crisis Responsibility
Attribution Theory-based Crisis Communication Best Practices
Post-Crisis Phase Best Practices
Crisis Management Team :
Dealing with news media
Importance of adequately prepare for news media regardless the format and whether the company is communicating during a crisis or non-crisis situation
You should have a good reason for holding a press conference. Wasting the media’s time on a frivolous issue will only set you up for challenges later on. You should also have a brief prepared statement that you will read and restate if necessary. Today’s press conference messages are often drafted by someone in public relations or media, and reviewed by legal counsel when warranted. If the task falls to you, keep it short and simple, addressing the following:
USING SOCIAL MEDIA DURING A CRISIS
Why social media is useful during a crisis
The growth of social media over the past few years has been exponential; according to Nielsen, Twitter alone grew 1,382 percent in February 2009, registering 7,000,000 unique visitors in the United States for the month. By February 2010, Twitter had 75,000,000 registered users and between 10,000,000 and 15,000,000 active tweeters. Meanwhile, Facebook has more than 400 million active users worldwide, according to its website, with each user averaging 130 Facebook friends.
Other continuing trends in social networking include microblogging on sites such as Twitter, which is rapidly becoming the fastest source of news on the Internet. The site acts as a personal newswire, passing on information about shared world events as they affect people in real time.
Why you should Tweet during a crisis :
Using Twitter or social network to reassure users during a crisis
• Any kind of acknowledgment online will result in lowered negativity and improved perceptions and may lead to fewer people calling the call/emergency centre
• Companies need to think about who posts the information, not just what is posted – a trusted community manager may be better than an anonymous account or an executive
• Companies can improve the effectiveness of their acknowledgements by explaining the nature and cause of the issue
In addition to brand marketing and cross-promotions infiltrating social networking sites, digital experts predict social media will become more exclusive, with people filtering out clutter from unwanted sources.
Another highly targeted web trend is the emergence of micro magazines—digital publications aimed at a specific audience that attract advertisers wanting to reach a particular group of people.
Social networking sites continue to grow in popularity; Facebook is the largest social networking site on the web with more than 400 million users worldwide. Social gaming is a popular trend on networking sites, and many users are not typical video game players; instead, they fit the female over-40 demographic. Developers generate revenue from social networking sites by charging gamers real money for bonuses or virtual goods. Microblogging is another popular social networking trend. Key events around the world are often reported on microblog Twitter first by users who experience the events firsthand. Business owners use Twitter to connect with their customers more effectively. Celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher are media savvy and use Twitter to promote worthy causes. Digital experts predict social networking will become more exclusive in the future, with people filtering out clutter from unwanted sources.
The Internet is moving in a more exclusive direction through membership-only sites such as Thrillist, which cater to specific audiences via subscription newsletters. Micro magazines, which target very specific audiences and are distributed via email or RSS feed, are also becoming more popular.
Applications for smartphones and tablet computers such as the iPad are hugely popular, offering consumers numerous shortcuts to their favorite websites in addition to games and services. Two current trends are location-sharing applications, facilitated by the GPS functionality on modern smartphones, and cross-media applications such as those that tie in with particular television shows, celebrities, or music radio stations.
The risks of using social media
Social media sites are free BUT can be translated to monetary costs 84% of the time : top costs are the following
• Lost productivity
• Lost revenue
• Loss of organization, customer or employee data damage to a company’s brand reputation
There are no “social media insurances”. Most common types of social media risk and liability :
• Advertising liability
• Employer hiring/firing practices
• Security breach / privacy breach
Law firms should review their policies to ensure that electronic communications are covered.
Social media marketing
Retaining customers is the purpose of customer-relationship management—a marketing strategy that focuses on using information about current customers to nurture and maintain strong relationships with them. The underlying theory is fairly basic: to keep customers happy, you treat them well, give them what they want, listen to them, reward them with discounts and other loyalty incentives, and deal effectively with their complaints.
In the last five years, the popularity of social media marketing has exploded. Most likely you already know what social media is—you use it every day when you connect to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or any number of other online sites that allow you to communicate with others, network, and bookmark and share your opinions, ideas, photos, and videos. So what is social media marketing? Quite simply social media marketing is the practice of including social media as part of a company’s marketing program.
The days of trying to reach customers through ads on TV, in newspapers, or in magazines are over.
Social media marketing provides a number of advantages to companies, including enabling them to:
• create brand awareness;
• connect with customers and potential customers by engaging them in two-way communication;
• build brand loyalty by providing opportunities for a targeted audience to participate in company-sponsored activities, such as a contest;
• offer and publicize incentives, such as special discounts or coupons, which increase sales;
• gather feedback and ideas on how to improve products and marketing initiatives;
• allow customers to interact with each other and spread the word about a company’s products or marketing initiatives; and
• take advantage of low-cost marketing opportunities by being active on free social sites, such as Facebook.
The main challenge of social media marketing is that it can be very time consuming. It takes determination and resources to succeed. Small companies often lack the staff to initiate and manage social media marketing campaigns.
Social networking experiment shows effects of mass mobilization. Emergency management in the social media age = CHANGE IN THE MINDSET
• From “come to us” to “we’ll come to you”
• From “we’ll decide what community needs” to “community will tell us what they need”
• Public is a resource, not a liability (not an official source of information)
Why social media ?
• Automatic warnings
• OSOM : One Source, One Message
1. Proactive and effective use of social media can help achieve a mission
2. To use social media effectively, agencies need to build and maintain credibility and trust in the space and be seen as open, transparent and honest
3. Agencies play a critical role in information flow and will encourage and engage in the exchange of timely, relevant and tailored information via social media
Bridging the gap :
• Understand concerns, build trust
• Flexible policies and procedures
• Practical examples and cases studies
• Advocate on behalf of community
Because customers are vital to a business, successful companies practice customer-relationship management—retaining good customers by keeping information on current customers, to foster and maintain strong ongoing relationships.
Companies that ask customers if they can contact them are engaged in permission marketing.
Mass marketing is the practice of sending out messages to a vast audience of anonymous people.
TV advertising is a form of interruption marketing that interrupts people to get their attention (with the hope they will listen to the ad).
Social media marketing is the practice of including social media as part of a company’s marketing program.
Advantages of social media marketing include the following:
Create brand awareness
Engage customers and potential customers in two-way conversations
Build brand loyalty
Offer and publicize incentives
Gather feedback on products and marketing initiatives
Have customers spread the word about products and marketing initiatives
Use low-cost marketing opportunities
A challenge of social media marketing is that it can be very time consuming to stay in touch with your customers and potential customers.
DESIGNING A CRISIS COMMUNICATION PLAN (CCP)
The plan will be different if designed for government agency, nonprofit organization or private company. Moreover, they are key elements that are expected to include.
What type of information does a Crisis Communications Plan contain ?
Purpose of a Crisis Communication Plan :to effectively manage communications through a formal, clearly defined channel in order to mitigate crisis, or serious negative repercussions for the company or the sector, and maintain a reputation of leadership and transparency on vital issues and breaking news.
Objectives of this crisis communications plan:
• Prepare the Association staff to effectively and nimbly manage crisis communications;
• Help staff respond in a unified, professional manner that reinforces sector leadership and creates loyalty;
• Strategically enhance the organization’s brand/role, and the public understanding of the value provided by the nonprofit community;
• Manage the distribution of critical, often sensitive, information to the media, members, and public; Inform members of the company’s position to help shape a consistent sector-wide response
Crisis Communications Checklist Overview
Safety – Ensure safety of all staff and site. Call 911 if needed.
Notification – Notify the president & CEO immediately.
Crisis Communications Team – Key staff and, if needed, the chairs of the Board and the Marketing and Communications Committee (MACC), will convene to strategically review the situation and manage the communications surrounding the issue.
Note: In some cases, a larger Crisis Management Team may be needed when action surrounding the crisis involves more than just handling communications. In those cases, the Crisis Communication Team would be a part of the larger team, though the guidelines in this manual only outline the steps to take in the communication needs surrounding a crisis.
Before Going Public
o Determine crisis communications lead person who is responsible for ensuring all tasks are completed (most likely the director of communications).
o Determine the crisis communication spokesperson who will answer all media and other inquiries (most likely the president & CEO).
o Assess the situation to determine the facts (see Detailed Crisis Communication Plan on page 6)
o Determine appropriate response/action (see Appendix 3: Decision Tree).
o Create plan of action for internal and external communications.
o Develop factual, detailed messages that reflect the status of the crisis, the Association’s response, and, if possible, proactive steps to resolve the situation.
o Prepare talking points and provide a script for the receptionist receiving incoming calls.
o Determine if a press release, web and/or voicemail updates are necessary.
o Assess what resources are necessary to manage the crisis (i.e. cell-phone availability, press conference needs, on-location resources – signs, lectern, visuals, etc).
o Appoint staff to:
Serve as the official spokesperson and manage media;
Keep the chairs of the Board and the MACC informed;
Contact partners, allies, members, etc. and assist with sector-wide talking points, if appropriate; and record crisis details, actions taken,external responses, resolution.
o Begin placing telephone calls to critical internal audiences, including staff, board and/or legislators, etc.
o Begin media and other external audience outreach, use press release if appropriate.
o Update web site and organization phone mail, if needed.
o Evaluate message effectiveness as the situation progresses.
o Implement methods for updating key audiences with ongoing information.
o Distribute post-crisis communications.
o Evaluate crisis communications efforts
How to design a Crisis Communications Plan ?
10 steps to developing a plan :
1. Choose and set up your monitoring platform(s)
2. Determine your monitoring schedule
3. Ensure local language supports teams
4. Determine what constitutes a crisis
5. Determine what you WILL respond to
• Customers service issues
• Features requests
• Other inquiries
6. Determine what you will NOT respond to
• Internal affairs
7. Form you Crisis Communications Team
8. Decide who will respond on the company’s behalf
9. Decide what to report on and how frequently
10. Build support beams
DEVELOPING STRATEGIC MESSAGES
How to use key messages to tell the company’s story and how to incorporate key strategic messages in online and traditional media tools
AND how to help managers communicate timely, effective and truthful messages while adhering to sound business principles
Practice writing key messages that tell your company’s story
Public relations can truly mean the difference between life and death for an organization, or the difference between profitability and failure.
Your message strategy consists of a positioning statement and three support points.
Your message strategy makes it easier to deliver the same message across all marketing media including Web sites, brochures, advertisements and presentations to investors, industry analysts and prospects. Consistent execution of the same message is a critical factor in successful marketing. Messages that Matter uses a formal, systematic methodology to help you develop the right message strategy.
Your positioning statement becomes the central idea or theme for all your marketing activities. A positioning statement is a short, declarative sentence that states just one benefit, and addresses your target market’s No. 1 problem.
A good positioning statement easily adapts to various media. It should be simply stated and works in every aspect of your marketing effort. So in summary, a positioning statement is:
Short sentence-less than 12 words (not counting product name)
• Simple language
• Adaptable to various media
• A compelling statement of one benefit
• A conceptual statement…not necessarily copy
• Supported by 3 additional benefit claims
• Satisfies 4 evaluation criteria (unique, believable, important and useable)
Once you’ve developed a positioning statement, you need to bolster it with three supporting claims.
Incorporate key messages using online and traditional media tools
Keys to Media Relations Success
Communicating with the media starts with knowing how their operation works, what they need and how they need it. You must know what they are looking for and structure your information to fit their needs.
• You and reporters have the same goal: accurate, timely communication of information.
• Misunderstandings occur because of a lack of awareness of how the media works and of what a reporter needs. Unfortunately, faults charged to the media are often a reflection of an industry or person who made the job tougher or did little to help the reporter “get the facts.”
• The news media is comprised of individuals who have a job or assignment to do. They have individual biases, as we all do, but the vast majority are reasonable and receptive.
• A good reporter is one who asks questions. You will find working with the news media much easier if you understand that asking the tough question is part of their job.
• Reporters seldom have the time to research a subject as much as you or they would like. Instead, they depend on you to work with them in getting the full picture.
• Many reporters are skeptical, by training if not by nature, so accept it. Your part of the equation is to supply useful, accurate and meaningful data without losing sight of your point of view.
• The success of your approach depends largely upon your ability to understand the relationship between you and the reporter and your knowledge of your role.
• Meet with reporters and editors one-on-one, prior to when you need coverage (an editorial backgrounder) and keep the presentation as short as possible. You lose effectiveness if you talk too long and you may miss an opportunity to learn what they want to know from their questions. Your purpose is to establish a dialogue, rather than a speech. Listen to them. Try to elicit the tough questions while you are there to answer.
Some Do’s and Don’ts in Dealing With the Media:
• Have research to back up what you’re saying.
• If you don’t know something, say so. Promise to get back quickly with the correct information – and do it.
• Never play reporters off against each other or threaten to go to another reporter with a story.
Reporters are people too, so little things are important, like:
• A personal note on a fine story a reporter has written.
• A tip on a matter unrelated to what you are doing.
• A personal invitation to a social event.
• Be aware of how the same reporters can “pop up” covering different beats within one, or different media organizations.
• Never lie or attempt to answer a question you don’t really know the answer to. Again, if you don’t know something, say so, and get back to the reporter with the correct information.
Television and Radio Interviews: Understanding Your Role
Broadcast (television and radio) is a headline service. Make your point and stop. TV news is to journalism what bumper stickers are to philosophy. Broadcast needs “talking heads.” It needs a spokesperson, a voice, a face.
The news director and producer determine what is to be covered, in coordination with the assignment editor.
The assignment editor is the primary contact for news; the producer is the primary contact for feature shows.
There is a weekend staff, as well as an after 7:00 p.m. staff, with the weekend and evening shift making assignments and news decisions for their segments.
News reporters are looking for the action/conflict in the story. The evening news is drama – visual and moving.
TV news looks also for the local angle to the national story of the day.
Primarily, TV wants it in 30 second segments, no time to “background” the reporter.
News reporters have a maximum of three hours to spend on the average story, most of the time far less, including the filming of the story. This produces only a couple of minutes on air, and boils down to around 30 seconds for your message.
News interviews or segments are short, to the point, and concise.
“Cutaway” or “Reverse Shots” can be expected, where the spokesperson is asked to remain on camera while other angles are shot for later insertion in the interview, showing your reporter listening
10 Key Media Interview Tips
1. Establish ground rules. Don’t hesitate to speak to the reporter ahead of time about the duration of the interview and the topics you will or will not address.
2. Identify yourself. Give your full title and provide biographical information when appropriate.
3. Stick to the point. During the interview stay focused, use short and concise sentences, and use everyday language. Formulate each response to make your point upfront, followed by supporting and explanations.
4. Be clear. Avoid acronyms and jargon. Imagine that you are speaking to a neighbor or relative who is not involved in planning.
5. Avoid saying anything “off the record.” It is better not to tell a reporter anything you do not want to see in print or on television. Remember, off-the-record isn’t retroactive. You can’t tell a reporter something and then take it back.
6. Use humor carefully. A facetious remark often seems sarcastic on the air or printed page.
7. Maximize non-verbal communications. What you wear, your body language, and your gesticulations should support your message and build your credibility as an expert.
8. Take control. Always remember, you don’t have to answer the questions they ask! Understand and utilize bridging phrases to transition from the question that was ask to the message point you want to make (see more detail on bridging in the last section of this document).
9. Offer to check the facts. Always offer to review factual information and quotes for accuracy. If the reporter declines to let you review copy for a printed article and you are concerned about being misquoted, ask the reporter what he or she intends to quote from your interview.
10. Provide informational materials. Never send a reporter away empty-handed. Provide news releases, journal articles, a biographical sketch, or a summary of your main points.
New Media Tips
Many organizations use third party applications such as HootSuite or TweetDeck to manage their tweets. HootSuite enables users to view several columns — such as their recent tweets, follower stream, direct messages sent and received, and more. This application also allows users to pre-schedule tweets and includes a built-in URL shortener, which enables users to track how many visits their links receive from Twitter. TweetDeck is another application through which you can view multiple columns and shortern URLs. This application also provides users with the ability to post their Twitter content to platforms such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn.
Post information about your organization’s activities and honors, as well as news articles related to your field. See the additional information below for tips on how to connect with others on Twitter.
Twitter is a reciprocal space. Do your best to retweet relevant links and news from your followers. It is also appropriate to include further commentary about the information you are re-sharing. It will make the content more valuable to your followers.
It is appropriate to ask your followers to RT information if a message is important or time sensitive.
Make sure to congratulate your followers or online partners on their good work. Twitter is about sharing and collaborating.
You can find new people to follow by searching for relevant keywords at search.twitter.com. If you’re using a third party application like HootSuite or TweetDeck, you can set-up a search column to keep tabs on people tweeting on a particular subject. This is a great way to find new people who are interested in similiar issues and connect with them on Twitter.
Be selective with who you choose to follow by following those who seem like legitimate sources of information. Quality of followers is more important than quanity on Twitter. Do not follower spammers back.
Facebook Fan Pages are a “one-stop-shop” for posting many of the items you may want to share, including photos, videos, news articles, event information and more.
Make sure to stay active on Facebook by posting links and information on your wall. Encourage fans to interact with you by asking them questions, too. If a fan posts something on the wall, be sure to thank them for their comment or respond to them appropriately.
Facebook gives you the option to post pictures directly to your page, or to add a tab the imports your photos on Flickr. If you want the conversation to start on Facebook, it’s recommended you post the pictures directly to the page. Also, it’s important for every picture you post to have a caption to give your fans some context. The same is true with videos. You can also add a tab that imports your YouTube videos, but can also upload the footage directly to Facebook if you want your fans to be able to comment on the page.
You can invite your Facebook Fans to events through your page by creating a new event item. Facebook will send users an invitation, which they can choose to accept or decline. Fans may also add this information directly to their Microsoft Outlook calendars through Facebook.
Use YouTube as a venue to post videos featuring a spokesperson or an event such as a groundbreaking or awards ceremony. In order to keep the content fresh and current, your organization may choose to invest in a small hand held camcorder, such as a FlipCam or Creative Vado.
LinkedIn is a great space for professionals to connect and share information online. Organizations can create either an interest group or company profile. Once you have created a company profile, LinkedIn will automatically pull information about each employee into the corporate profile. This serves as a directory for those in your field seeking information about individuals at your organization.
Additionally, LinkedIn serves as another space to promote other Web sites, such as your blog. Both your individual and your corporate LinkedIn profiles offer the opportunity to use the BlogLink application to feature your blog. Additionally, the SlideShare application allows you to post PowerPoint presentations. Events can also be shared on LinkedIn.
Help management to communicate truthful messages
There are usually two things happening during a crisis:
1.) the issue at hand that needs to be dealt with
It could be a fire in one of your buildings, a disgruntled former employee who shares internal documents, embezzlement or corruption, kidnap and ransom, a hurricane takes the roof off your warehouse, your plant goes down because of flooding or a power grid failure and production is halted, etc. You get the idea.
Or, it could be a known issue — one the management team or the general manager know about and may not have briefed the communication team. I’m inclined to think this is the case with many recent break downs between companies and their communities.
2.) communication with all stakeholders and the public at large where applicable
This includes employees and their families, local authorities and emergency personnel, business partners, vendors, board of directors, analysts, and the investor community as applicable, as well as the physical and virtual communities affected — directly and indirectly.
Communicators and PR professionals are taught that during a crisis, they should use the ICE method to guide the response. ICE stands for Information, Communication and Evaluation. These three areas and the processes associated with them will help you stay organized and keep the crisis response team and the crisis management task force on the same page.
I — Information
Gather as much information as possible about the event: who, what, when, where, why, how and more. Check and double check the facts, and get updates often. Do you have open communication lines with the people in the field and those close to the crisis? Do you have a process to capture information as it becomes available?
C — Communication
Once information has been gathered and verified, communicate to employees and other key stakeholders, including the media, as appropriate. Keep a log of all requests for information from each stakeholder group. Do you have pre-approved language you can insert key facts into to aid with speed in initial communications? What’s your process for ongoing updates? Who needs to be involved in approvals?
E — Evaluation
Monitor media stories and online conversations to make certain information is being presented accurately. The crisis response team must act immediately to correct any incorrect or misleading information. Update information frequently and verify progress in the organization’s response.
Towards a more practical end, international business behaviors are frequently governed by governmental and industry regulations requiring that marketers:
• be legal, decent, honest , and truthful;
• show responsibility to the customers and society;
• follow business principles of fair competition
Ethical Norms and Values for Marketers:
• Do no harm.
• Foster trust in the marketing system.
• Embrace ethical values.
• Strive to be truthful at all times.
• Offer products of value that do as claimed.
• Stand behind products that fail to deliver as claimed.
• Honor commitments and promises.
• Strive to serve the needs of customers.
• Avoid using coercion with all stakeholders.
• Consider environmental stewardship in decision-making.
• Value individual differences and avoid stereotyping customers in a negative way.
• List to needs of customers and make reasonable efforts to improve their satisfaction.
• Give back to the community through volunteerism and charitable donations.
Communicate to various stakeholder groups
Experts in stakeholder management and public relations have provided many different ways of identifying key stakeholders or publics. At the heart of these attempts is the question, “How much attention does each stakeholder group deserve or require?
It is impossible that all stakeholders will have the same interests in and demands on the organization. Once organizations have identified their stakeholders, there is a struggle for attention: who to give it to, who to give more to, and who to ignore. Sacrificing the needs of one stakeholder for the needs of the other is a dilemma with which many organizations struggle. When these conflicts arise it is important to the success of the organization that it has prioritized each stakeholder according to the situation.
A stakeholder is a group or individual who is affected by or can affect the success of an organization. The definition has been expanded to include groups who have interests in the corporation, regardless of the corporation’s interest in them. Employees, customers, shareholders, communities, and suppliers are those most commonly classified as stakeholders within an organization.
Organizations choose stakeholders by their marketing strategies, recruiting, and investment plans, but “publics arise on their own and choose the organization for attention.
Grunig and Hunt developed the model based on the work of Esman (1972); Evan (1976); Parsons (1976).
• Enabling stakeholders have some control and authority over the organization, such as stockholders, board of directors, elected officials, governmental legislators and regulators, and so on. These stakeholders provide an organization with resources and necessary levels of autonomy to operate. When enabling relationships falter, the resources can be withdrawn and the autonomy of the organization limited, restricted, or regulated.
• Functional stakeholders are essential to the operations of the organization and are divided between input—providing labor and resources to create products or services (such as employees and suppliers)—and output—receiving the products or services (such as consumers and retailers).
• Normative stakeholders are associations or groups with which the organization has a common interest. These stakeholders share similar values, goals, or problems and often include competitors that belong to industrial or professional associations.
• Diffused stakeholders are the most difficult to identify because they include publics who have infrequent interaction with the organization, and become involved based on the actions of the organization. These are the publics that often arise in times of a crisis; linkages include the media, the community, activists, and other special interest groups.
Grunig developed a situational theory of publics to explain and predict why some publics are active and others are passive.
Those publics who do not face a problem are nonpublics, those who face the problem but do not recognize it as a problem are latent publics, those who recognize the problem are aware publics, and those who do something about the problem are active publics. He identified three variables that explain why certain people become active in certain situations: level of involvement, problem recognition, and constraint recognition.
Level of involvement is measured by the extent to which people connect themselves personally with the situation. However, people do not seek or process information unless they recognize the connection between them and a problem, which is the level of problem recognition. Whether people move beyond information processing to the information seeking behavior of active publics often depends on whether they think they can do something about the problem. Constraint recognition is the level of personal efficacy a person believes that he or she holds, and the extent to which he or she is having an impact on the issue is possible. Those who think that nothing can be done have high constraint recognition and are less compelled to become active in the resolution of the problem. Another consideration, referent criteria, is the guideline that people apply to new situations based on previous experiences with the issue or the organization involved.
Stakeholders who are also active publics become the obvious top priority publics.
Therefore, an organization must develop strategies to help mediate issues with priority publics. These strategies will depend on whether the stakeholders are supportive or nonsupportive and active or inactive. Therefore, you would develop strategies based on four groups, advocate stakeholders (active and supportive), dormant stakeholders (inactive and supportive), adversarial stakeholders (active and nonsupportive), and apathetic stakeholders (inactive and nonsupportive).
• Advocate stakeholders. This is the group that you want involved in supportive actions such as third-party endorsements, letter-writing campaigns, donations, investments, and attendance at functions. Communication should be action and behavior oriented.
• Dormant stakeholders. This is a group that is not ready to be involved. If inactivity is due to lack of knowledge, messages should focus on creating awareness and understanding of the issues that affect them. If the publics are aroused, but not active, then communication should address potential causes of apathy by reducing perceptions of constraints or using affective cues to increase emotional attachment.
• Adversarial stakeholders. The initial response to this group is to be defensive. However, defensive communication will not work on this group, it will only entrench them in their position. Defensive communication is better intended for aroused publics who have not decided whether they are supportive or not. Instead, organizations should use conflict resolution strategies that involve nonsupportive stakeholders to seek win-win solutions.
• Apathetic stakeholders. Again, the gut reaction to this group is to ignore it. But if this group faces an issue but is not aware of it or does not see its resonance yet, it may still move to an aroused, then aware, and then active public. A better strategy is to increase awareness of the issue with an invitation to collaborate with the organization on the issue before it becomes a problem or crisis. Since it would be difficult to get this group involved, most of the communication effort should be focused on increasing the salience of the issue and invitations for involvement.
The defensive approach is a reactive behavior that acts principally in the self-interest of the organization. The responsive approach is a reactive behavior that considers its impact on stakeholders. The assertive approach is proactive behavior that promotes self-interests in an attempt to control an organization’s environment. And, the collaborative approach is proactive behavior that uses dialogue to create mutually beneficial solutions that incorporate the interests of both the organization and its stakeholders.
Developing positive relationships with stakeholders is a necessity for organizations. The first step is to identify your stakeholders and then prioritize them according to organizational goals and situations. A common tendency is to respond to the squeaky-wheel stakeholder. If the organization has not properly prioritized its stakeholders and their relationships, this group may get more attention than is deserved. This model demonstrates that the squeaky wheel may not be the stakeholder with the greatest priority. By using the steps outlined in this chapter, organizations can take a more systematic and comprehensive approach to prioritizing stakeholders.
To help organizations deal with varying situations, the four segments approach of the contingency model helps to create an effective public relations strategy. The understanding of these four main approaches offers you a theoretical foundation and a practical guide to practicing strategic public relations.