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Sunday, 13 March 2011

Communication during the crisis


Chinese saying: crisis may be either a danger or an opportunity
Crisis - coming from nowhere can destroy even the most renowned brands and undermine trust for a long, long time. However, if it happens it doesn’t need to be an end, on the contrary, if managed well it can even strengthen the reputation.

Today organizations are more prone to crises than whenever before. It is in majority caused by (information by Pam Williams):
        More knowledge
        Ever higher scrutiny - 24/7 global media
        Greater demands for transparency
        Zero tolerance of risk
        Decrease in trust (in companies, government, science… everyone)
        Science has lost its impartial and reliable image
        NGO proliferation and growth in anti-business activism
        Growth in victim and litigation culture
        Power of the individual to effect change
        The internet + UGC + social media 


Communication is a key

At the core of skilful crisis management process stays communication with all of the organisation’s internal and external stakeholders, but the critical group are the media. The five core rules a spokeperson should applied when talking to the media are: 

                                                (Tench, Yeomas; 2006)
1.    Show a true concern about what has happened.
2.    Give a detailed data – what was said at the outset will be repeated throughout the next hours and days.
3.    Take control over the messages, environment and the venue.
4.    Demonstrate confidence, but not arrogance.
5.    Demonstrate competence and say how the organisation will handle the problem.

On the onset spokesperson should be also well prepared for an encounter with  journalists inconvenient questions, which typically are as follow (information by Pam Williams):
        Details – who, what, when, where?
        Who is at fault?
        When will they be punished?
        When did the organisation know about the problem?
        How is it responding?
        Will there be compensation?
        Has it happened before?
        Could it happen again?

The worst move is to stay quiet, ignoring the media. Then everyone thinks the organisation is guilty:
  • The company chooses to say: 'No comment.'
  • The media say: 'The company was unwilling to take part in this programme.'
  • Consumers think: 'No smoke without fire.'  'They are hiding something.' 'Guilty!'
                                                     
References:
1.     Langford, M., Crisis public relations management. in: Tench, R., Yeomans, L., (2006). Exploring Public Relations. Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall.
2.     Williams, P., MA Public Relations Course Leader at University of Westminster

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