Crisis? What crisis?

Crisis management is the phrase du jour in the eModeration / Carrot Communications camp at the moment. We’ve been workshopping our little socks off with brands and agencies who want help with preparing for a social media crisis. In the interest of finding out what the rest of the world is up to, we went to a ‘Crisis Management: cause, effect, recovery’ conference, organised by the lovely people at CorpComms magazine.

The Chatham House rule applied to much of the conference, so sadly I can’t share state secrets from the likes of Virgin, Goldman Sachs, Eurostar and McDonalds. (The presenters were incredibly candid which made for a fascinating day.) Gerald Ratner , of course, was one of the most inspiring, funny – and in many ways, moving – speakers I’ve ever heard at a conference.

But there were some recurring themes through almost all the presentations. Here are my top 10:

  1. Be open, honest, and get your facts right. You will get found out if you lie, shut down commentary or bluff the facts. Social media has helped that particular process along nicely.
  2. Lawyers aren’t always right (just ask Ryan Giggs). Not answering a question when faced with a Select Committee may reduce your litigation risk, but it doesn’t much help your credibility or reputation.
  3. Put a human face on the company response to a crisis. People are much more forgiving to a human being than they are to a faceless logo. (Possibly with the exception of Tony Hayward.)
  4. Sometimes, saying sorry is the best thing you can do. Assuming you mean it. As is helping your customers out of the crisis. We’re all human, things go wrong. An apology goes a long way to repairing the damage.
  5. You can’t advertise your way out of a crisis. Solve the issue. No-one’s going to believe lots of positive stories about you until you’ve sorted out the mess. (My addition to this: don’t post positive messages all over your social media pages, either. Same effect, multiplied.)
  6. Fix the problem. Take business action. PR isn’t a magic wand that puts everything right. Change your business if you have to, to recover trust.
  7. Don’t be distracted by events – focus on reaching, and helping, your customers. They’re the ones that keep your business going.
  8. Twitter is the first place journalists go to in a crisis (Brand Republic’s Gordon McMillan responded to a tweet on this saying its: “The sound of the crowd, on tap”.
  9. It takes hard graft to repair the damage and respond to criticism. And much of the hard graft will be done by the management team, not just the PR team. Be prepared.
  10. Learn from the crisis. Review how you did, change your processes, even change your business. It might make you stronger.

(This blog first appeared on the Bunker Briefing blog, a joint blog from Carrot Communications and eModeration.)

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