Social media makes crisis communications more effective

10/23/2013 10:44:00 AM
Greg Johnson

Greg JohnsonMegan McKenna, director of marketing for the Orlando, Fla.-based National Mango Board, talks with Jason Stemm of Padilla/CRT after an Oct. 18 workshop on Crisis Communications.NEW ORLEANS -- Companies involved in a crisis now have a little more control over the message thanks to social media, according to two public relations experts.

“The media needs you” during a crisis, said Brian Ellis, executive vice president of Padilla/CRT, at a Fresh Summit workshop Oct. 18 called “Crisis communications is really social communications: why the first 24 hours are critical.”

“Twitter allows you to get things out, and the media will regurgitate it word for word,” he said.

He said social media has become so important during a crisis because consumers have become accustomed to getting information much more quickly than traditional media used to provide.

Ellis said there are three messages critical in every crisis, no matter what the crisis is about:

  • Show the plan and how you’re responding;
  • Show compassion; and
  • Show the path forward.

While social media has empowered companies involved in a crisis, it will do them no good if they’re not prepared ahead of time, Ellis said.

“The secret to crisis management is you have to be ahead of the audience,” he said.

That means companies need to anticipate the kinds of questions consumers and media will have well ahead of time, and then have key company personnel practice responses to such questions.

“Everyone I’ve ever trained is ‘wing-it’ challenged,” he said. “They all have to be prepared.”

Fellow workshop presenter Jason Stemm, a vice president of Padilla/CRT, said a study by Accenture showed that during a crisis, companies without a communication plan saw a stock price drop, but ones with a plan saw a stock price rise after an initial drop related to the crisis.

Ellis said crisis plans should not be too elaborate.

“The audience can only remember two or three things, so it must be repeated, up to eight times,” he said. “If the audience doesn’t get it, it’s your job to make them.”



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