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These are not clean distinctions – in fact, they may represent more a continuum that a specific set of definitions Issues – everyone has them, we deal with them every day Accidents – everyone has them, most are covered by plans Emergencies – the difference here is a time element, or perhaps external forces that require you to decide or act Crisis – a decisive moment What is the relationship between these? Which is easiest to predict – and why?
Good leaders can get you by in an emergency, they can overcome bureaucratic org cultures Competent communications is definitely a plus Does anyone expect your relations with the press, community or other key audiences to improve in an emergency? If your reputation and media relations are no good, do not expect them to magically get better in an emergency Media relations, Community relations, relations with management
Your success or failure will likely be judged on how you treat those most affected by the crisis (all of them).
Crisis Communications:Preparing for Your 15 Minutes of FamePatrick Gibbons
When Opportunity Knocks…Some PR professionals work their whole lives trying togenerate national media attention. Some of us get it unexpectedly one day … and usually end up complaining about it. - Patrick Gibbons
Definitions Issue – a topic of discussion, a matter in dispute or a sensitive subject within an organization, industry or society Accident – an unexpected and undesirable event, usually one resulting in damage or injury Emergency – a serious situation or unexpected occurrence that demands immediate action and communication Crisis – a critical or decisive point at which an organization’s response to an issue, accident or emergency threatens the reputation and/or future standing of the organization Goal: Prevent issues, accidents and emergencies from becoming crises
Principles Reputations can be gained or lost during emergencies Emergency (crisis) communications is an extension of your normal communications – good and bad If you don’t fill the “news hole,” someone less qualified probably will Perception is reality – if you don’t like it, change it Knowing what to do is only half the battle The longer you wait to act, the higher the price
Why Crises Happen Management’s failure to understand the issue, public opinion Failure to effectively engage the media – allowing others to control the issue Failure to demonstrate control, concern and credibility Over-reliance on legal response/defense
The Crisis (News) Cycle Initial story – “facts” Follow-up (new details, angles, opportunities) Inappropriate management response (lack of trust) Management competence becomes the story (loss of credibility and control) Regulatory, political or board level reaction (blame and house cleaning) Coverage of investigation(s) and recovery Next time, anniversary coverage
Assessing Your Crisis Potential Nature of your business Nature, experience of your CEO Prominence of your company Organizational culture Communication reporting structure Status of current public relations Do you have a plan? Has it been tested?
Before Emergencies Strike Consider likely, unlikely scenarios Identify key staff members, roles Establish relations with external contacts Develop a plan - Objectives for each audience - Think, “How would we?” - Identify resources - Train, rehearse staff members
When ‘Stuff’ Happens Fill the immediate “news hole” Collect, analyze the facts Assess newsworthiness – when, where is it news? Who are other likely news sources? What are they saying? Develop a strategy, messages – and communicate them Don’t let your silence become the story
Avoiding the Initial “No Comment”Even without facts, you should be able to express: Awareness – “We are aware of/not aware of…” Concern – “We are concerned about (or are taking seriously) reports of …” Commitment – “Once we have the facts, we will take appropriate action …”
Assessing News Value Prominence Oddity Timeliness Sex Impact Suspense Proximity Progress Conflict Trends Emotion Visuals Goal: Address and reduce news value
Three C’s of Success Control – Take appropriate action, explain it Concern – Demonstrate concern, compassion Credibility – Know the facts – Be first with the news – Build trust
Dealing with News Media Labels – what are we calling this? Develop an approval process, one set of facts Briefings or interviews? Be helpful, instructive, polite – but always firm Reach out to third parties for credibility Listen for news, concerns Good relationships are made in bad times
It Is Not About Answering Questions Prepare talking points Make statements about the issue Explain your company’s perspective Shape the story
Starting Points for Good Responses “Our primary concern at this point is… “What I can tell you right now is… “At the moment, our primary focus is… “The important thing at this point is… “I think a more accurate term is _____ (and then explain why) …
Dealing with Social Media Part of your strategy, but not the driver Valuable resources for: Monitoring, listening Sharing perspective Interacting with users/customers/clients Can be a time/resource “vampire” Choose those that work for your business Interact with professionalism, authenticity
Major Accidents or Emergencies Confirm/assign staff responsibilities Plan for sustained media presence, coverage – develop a briefing schedule Find daily news peg, story angle – think “what’s next?” Be first with the news (internal and external) – shape the story Prepare your spokesperson Look for good news – offer “behind the scenes” access, if appropriate Use all your tools – e-mail, website, YouTube, photo releases Don’t forget internal communications Pace yourself, key staff
If/When It Gets Really Bad Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing ‘they’ can do?” Volunteer for the second worst quickly Announce the decision to do soThe longer you delay, the higher the cost –$$ and reputation
Working with Legal Counsel Same team, different perspectives Equally critical in emergencies Tactics – Build relationship in advance, gain trust – Highlight bad examples elsewhere – Understand legal concerns, present options – Bottom line – the boss needs both perspectives
When the Storm Passes Thank those (inside and outside) who helped Reward and congratulate successes Collect lessons learned Track issues, think about next news peg – memorial, anniversary?
Keys to Success Build relations with key people in advance Have a plan, communicate it Fill the immediate “news hole” Try to stay ahead of the news Use all your resources – staff, website, social media Learn for next time
Questions or more information:Patrick Gibbonsgibbonscp@nc.rr.com