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How to stay on track with the right solutions (not excuses) during a crisis

How to stay on track with the right solutions (not excuses) during a crisis

Not liking how your crisis is playing out? Wish people would listen to what you’re saying? There is something you can do to control your crisis, but it starts long before your social media channels have gone into freefall.

One of the biggest mistakes organisations make when a crisis hits is trying to change their audience’s perceptions instead of dealing with the fallout of the here-and-now.

While this most often occurs when organisations haven’t taken the time to plan, workshop and train in crisis communications together as a team, it can also occur when multiple stakeholders outside of the communications department start to exert influence on the process and end product.

If you get caught in the thick of a tweet storm, here are a few quick ways to stay on track with communication solutions instead of excuses to resolve your crisis:

Control your narrative or someone else will

One of the most frustrating things for organisations is not being heard AND then being heard incorrectly. This is important because being heard incorrectly deals with an absence of organisational fact (and narrative), whereas the media deal with what is newsworthy (ergo what is profitable for them). Needless to say, scandal sells papers, clicks and views.

The crisis fix:

Create simple, clean, embeddable content.

Why?

Because to be heard correctly you need to help the news media do their job and at a time when newsrooms are understaffed and overworked.

Presenting ready-click-go content is like delivering your narrative on a silver platter. It’s hard for people to miss your message when you are the one delivering it and the news media are simply the conduit.

Video is your go-to here. Not once, but regular updates during the course of your crisis.

There is a fine line between influence and spin

Don’t like the facts of your crisis? Bad luck — the truth should always be the prevailing narrative and you should avoid – at all costs – trying to spin a bad story good.

The crisis fix:

Like a bandaid — rip it off quick to avoid longer term pain.

Why?

Because a well timed mea culpa (as in before the scandal unravels and starts to trend or smack on the top of breaking news) takes the heat out of the sting. It’s hard for people to stay angry when you’ve been honest and upfront with them — no matter how bad the story. The devil in this equation is trying to whitewash (green or pink wash) your scandal into something it is not.

Changing perceptions, hearts and minds is a long term strategy — not a crisis solution

“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.” – unknown.

A crisis isn’t the time to try and exert undue influence to change perceptions. That ship has sailed without you. What you can control and influence is what people think about how you are handling your crisis right now and into the immediate the future. So make your messaging matter.

The crisis fix:

Park your reputation remediation strategy for post-crisis implementation.

Why?

It’s a long term strategy that misses the here and now point of your crisis. Think of it this way: people want to know what you’re going to do NOW to fix the issue, not the way you’ll try to trivialise the crisis or down play it into the future. Start communicating solutions, not excuses or communications products like holding statements that act as delaying tactics. Don’t tell your audience what to think; communicate what you want them to think about.

Social media is the ultimate echo chamber

On social media what you like next is the type of content you’ll be served in future. This means that algorithmically, you are continually in a bubble that reinforces your own biases, beliefs and worldviews. Why? Because people like to feel cognitively safe in their comfort zone. Challenging someone’s fundamental worldview or offending their feelings results in a complete disengagement from your messaging. Sure the truth might hurt to hear, but in this case, your audience is no longer around to listen.

The crisis fix:

Map the narratives appearing during your crisis. Separate them between the one/s you created and disseminated, and the ones you haven’t.

Why?

Because this type of social intelligence gathering will tell you what you need to do next. If a narrative has developed and is gathering volume and depth of influence, you may need to correct the record with some facts. Sometimes audiences and the media go off on tangents that are unrelated to the current crisis — revisiting your last disaster or something another organisation in your industry has done. If the divergence is factually misrepresenting your crisis, prepare some messages — if not, let it run its course.

In a crisis, minutes matter

If you have a plan, you have your first few hours mapped out. If you don’t have a plan, you’re winging it from the get go.

What you do now will influence what your audience think about and believe next: make it matter.

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