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Crisis Communications & Why You Should Have Plans In Place

An organisation’s reputation is intrinsically linked with its ability to secure sales, attract top talent or even to charge a premium. Well regarded business also benefit from loyal customers who buy a broader ranges of goods and tell others.  So if reputation is all important why not ensure you have you crisis communication plans in place?

As Benjamin Franklin said; “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” Sadly however, most organisations do an inadequate job of managing their reputations, only focussing their energies when a problem has already surfaced.

So what should companies do to protect against reputational damage? The answer depends on the type, complexity and size of the organisation but there are some basic rules of thumb.

Firstly; have a crisis communications plan in place. Organisations should ensure they have the capability and capacity to  respond to negative press, social media or customer complaints. Issues can move quickly but can often be predicted – having a crisis communications plan allow a company to be responsive, co-ordinated and consistent in what it wants to convey, to who and when.

Secondly, be honest.  An organisation that communicates honestly can even build greater trust with its stakeholders in the long term, while one that appears dishonest can undermine confidence and prolong a problem.

Thirdly, get support.  When a crisis hits it can be all consuming.  Customers, suppliers and employees will all need reassurance as well as the media and/or any public authority.  All should be included in the crisis communication plan but business leaders should focus on what they do best and seek professional support to help in other areas.

Identify the members of the crisis communication team and can allocate roles and responsibilities.  This can include simple actions like who should act as spokesperson and whether more than one is needed depending on the enquiry?  Also consider who will field media calls, monitor social media and is there back up required for each role?   The plan should include contact information for all team members including personal mobile phone numbers.

A crisis communications plan shouldn’t predetermine what to say and don’t script the responses – instead focus on developing the key messages you can plan in advance as well as key company information.  Where possible anticipate what the questions may be and how the organisation should respond.  In preparing the responses, consider the who, what, when, why and how and the below offer a useful guide:

  • What was the cause of the crisis?
  • A brief description / understanding of what happened
  • Provide a timetable for future plans and actions
  • Communicate compassion for any victims of the crisis
  • Involve supporters and any emergency service responses

Although many crises can’t be planned in advance, there’s no excuse not to have a plan in place for when one crops up.  The old adage stands true that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, often with devastating consequences to an organisation’s name and all important reputation.

To help develop your crisis communication plan, contact a member of our experienced team and let us support you through the process.

THE BEST CRISIS PR CAMPAIGNS TAKE COURAGE

The best PR campaigns often take courage of convictions or a willingness to do something differently in order to influence and engage with audiences to improve outcomes.  This is even more the case in a crisis PR / communications, where the stakes are high and a wrong move can be costly.

As is often the case, the risk reward equation needs to be carefully balanced, with business leaders making the call based on the advice and expertise given by their PR agency or advisors.

But equally sometimes in business, politics or society the right action just feels right, is based on a calculated risk and an intuitive understanding of the people you are looking to engage with.

There is no better example of this than the crisis communications undertaken by Chris Swanson, Genesee County Sheriff, who put down his helmet, weapons and joined protesters marking the murder of George Floyd saying, “I want to make this a parade, not a protest”.

Simply brilliant.  He had a clear understanding of his audience, the courage of his convictions and the leadership to take his team with him.  He also faced significant risks as he faced a potentially angry mob who were protesting against police brutality and who in other regions and states had clashed violently.

Swanson took off his helmet, ordered other officers to put down their weapons and smiled and high-fived people in the crowd.  The crowd responded by chanting, “walk with us!”.  So, he did. “Let’s go, let’s go,” Swanson said as he and the cheering crowd proceeded. “Where do you want to walk? We’ll walk all night.”

His leadership and actions marked a change in behaviour as well as the emergence of #walkwithus.  Several law enforcement officials have taken his lead with more in the past few days engaging with marchers and showing solidarity either by marching, kneeling or publicly denouncing the death of Mr. Floyd.

This positive and persuasive response is in marked contrast to the confrontations that have escalated and cities, including Chicago, New York and Philadelphia, where violence and vandalism have targeted police in recent nights. Videos have shown police officers using batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters, bystanders and journalists, often without warning.  Sadly at least five people have been killed so far in violence connected to the protests that started after Mr. Floyd died in police custody.

So why was this crisis communication so successful?  It was not a crisis PR campaign orchestrated with big budgets and celebrity influencers but simply honest and genuine communications that understood and related to its audiences.

It also took a lot of bravery and showed exceptional leadership in a time of crisis.  It was however considered communications and one based on an understanding of the audience, confidence in the team and an honest appraisal of the situation.

Well done Sheriff Swanson, setting an excellent example not only in policing, humanity and empathy but crisis PR communications as well.

THE NORTH WEST PR AGENCY

This week were excited to see our profile piece appear on Prolific North as a leading North West PR agency.  Although based in Cheshire, Source PR has increased its presence across the North West and is delighted to be profiled in this way.

Award winning Source PR, established more than 10 years ago, has grown year on year and is now regarded as one of the leading PR, marketing and digital agencies in Chester, Cheshire and the whole of the North West.

The great work undertaken by the team, covering all services including social media management, B2B PR, consumer PR, design and digital communications have all been recognised by clients with some excellent endorsements achieved across the board.

The team is also recognised for the work it has done in both helping with crisis communications, stakeholder engagement strategies as well as supporting rural businesses raise their profile and develop effective marketing strategies that build credibility and deliver customer engagement.

The North West PR Agency is also well placed to provide specialist communication support for businesses looking to secure planning permissions or help with their broader stakeholder communications.  With experience of working in the property and construction sectors for decades, Source PR is uniquely placed to help businesses with a broad range of communications challenges and issues.

Most recently, Managing Director Louis Hill was asked by the national media to comment on the government’s Covid-19 communications strategies.  His comments were widely picked up in the national media including the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail as well as The Metro.  This kind of media coverage is often achieved for the North West PR Agency’s clients – resulting in Source PR often being nominated and receiving numerous awards.

The team at Source PR comes from a wide variety of backgrounds including those with proven PR skills, journalist backgrounds or specialist social media / digital agencies.  The team is now responsible for communicating with more than a million customers on a weekly basis for its clients located across the UK.

Earlier this year, the North West PR agency has also secured it’s first international client, helping one of Europe’s leading manufacturing businesses extend its presence in the UK and to raise its profile, credibility and to share the excellent work it does with new and existing customers.

If you would like to speak with a member of Source PR’s North West PR agency team, contact us today.  We would be delighted to meet and discuss how we can help your business grow.

CORONAVIRUS CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS PLAN: HOW TO USE PR TO PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS

The rapid spread of the Coronavirus has pushed the WHO to declare a pandemic.

To date, there are around 139,075 cases of Coronavirus (also known as COVID-129) globally, 5,117 have died and cases are now found in almost every country in the world.

Stock markets have been hit and the International Monetary Fund has declared that the world’s ‘fragile economy’ could be derailed if the virus is not contained.

Coronavirus Crisis Communications Plan

Source: Worldometers

Now, the question to be raised is “how can businesses deal with the Coronavirus outbreak?”.

Read more

PR VERSUS POVERTY PORN

There’s growing criticism of ‘poverty porn’ and in particular how charities are using crude and clichéd PR campaigns to attract donations.  Although criticism of anyone looking to make a positive difference is largely unfair, there is a case for charitable organisations to look at how they wish to portray themselves and their causes.

This is illustrated in criticism of Red Nose Day and Stacy Dooley’s work in Africa by David Lammy MP. Although a little harsh, particularly when he’s been called out for not doing enough himself to support communities in Africa, it does open the debate on how charities need to move on from relying of pushing people into ‘guilt transactions’ as they sit down on a Saturday evening to watch Red Nose Day’s entertainment or other similar programmes.

Effective PR

As with most effective PR, if your campaign can take the audience with you on the journey you secure greater and more long term buy-in.  People believe in, follow and talk about the change they feel needs to be made rather than just reaching for their spare change.  Not dissimilar to the old adage that if you give a man a fish you will feed him for a day, but that if you teach him to fish you will feed him for life.

Digital communications are also playing an increasingly important role.  Just look at the success of campaigns like the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ or Movember which dominated social media for months.  This illustrates what can be achieved by engaging with the audience and taking them with you.

The charity sector is one of the most competitive with each organisation looking to secure their share of money for their worthwhile causes.  Put simply, there are more than 180,000 charities in England and Wales and those that don’t run a planned PR programme will struggle to raise awareness and subsequent funds.

As we’ve seen by recent low budget PR and digital campaigns, deep pockets aren’t essential, but charities do need to play to their strengths and engage with their audiences.  In doing so they can achieve some great successes without having to reply on promoting poverty porn.

DIGITAL PR – SIMPLE STEPS TO BUILD PERFECT SITE

In an increasingly digital world, having a website has never been more important for the emerging brands of today. Whilst the tech-savvy amongst you may already be well-versed with the mechanics of website build, we explore some of the key factors to consider for ensuring that your website is as effective as it can be:

1. Make it accessible

In today’s increasingly fast-paced digital environment, web browsers are looking for quick answers and instant gratification. If your website is clunky and difficult to navigate, a user is quite simply not going to waste their time trying to find out exactly what it is that you offer. Make the message simple and clear from the get-go to grab your reader’s attention. If your message is complex, consider introducing the use of infographics and imagery to make the information more digestible.

2. Make it easy to find

With over 4 billion searches made on Google every single day, it is essential that you consider search engine optimisation (SEO). In layman’s terms, the key to effective SEO is to outline the keywords that you wish your website to be associated with and then to make sure that you are using them effectively throughout the site. A great way to do this is by regularly updating your blog content. This will also show readers that your website is constantly being refreshed and will encourage repeat visits.

3. Optimise for mobile

According to research carried out by TextLocal, 85% of smartphone devices are now used for internet browsing, compared to 72% of laptop devices. This shift in browsing habits means that smartphone optimisation is now one of the foundations for effective website build, as opposed to an afterthought. Where traditionally sites have been optimised for desktop during build, this trend is now changing, and many are now favouring a mobile-first approach in order to enhance the experience for smartphone users.

4. Make it personal

According to research from Accenture (2017), more than one in two consumers (56%) are more likely to shop at a retailer in store or online that recognizes them by name. Capturing customer data on your website provides a fantastic opportunity for personalising the customer experience, from sending birthday wishes through to sending recommendations based on their browsing preferences.

5. Don’t stop improving

Once your web build is complete, the journey doesn’t stop there. Websites need to be constantly monitored and updated in order to perform their very best, and a great tool for helping you to measure this performance is Google Analytics. This tool will breakdown the nitty-gritty details of your site, down to the keyword they used to find you in the first place. GA can work wonders for making those small improvements that will help guarantee that users spend a longer time browsing and engaging with your page.

6. Content is king

If you want your website to appear in the top search engine rankings, content remains king. Google and other search engines will be looking to see what ‘authority’ your site has for the search terms offered. Get the content right, populate with blogs / vlogs and articles that build credibility and authority and secure links to the site. All this helps get the all-important SEO.

If you are thinking about starting a new web project and would like any assistance with the process, then do get in touch with us.

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