When the Unexpected Happens…

It’s no secret social media has changed the world for PR pros and we’re all adjusting to the changes. Our cohorts in advertising, marketing and journalism are joining us as we re-tool our skill sets to make accommodations for this new world.

One of the biggest changes has been the compression of time from when something happens to when the entire world (or so it can seem) knows about it. As PR pros, we know it can toss our well-planned days into shambles in minutes. But we also know it’s a “fun” ride. I’ve been involved in one of those fun rides for the past couple of weeks.

Here are some of the things I learned:

  • The bully pulpit is alive and well, especially on social media.

  • When you respond politely to the bully pulpit with facts and reason, “he” often apologizes.

  • Lots of folks comment/send emails without the facts.

  • But once you give them the facts, you receive sincere thanks.

  • If you’re already built trust with your customer and they LOVE your brand, it can be easier to move beyond.Those customers also jump in and support you where you’re being maligned.

Honesty and transparency have always been the best policy. And they still are. As communications professionals we can’t always prevent the topsy turvy days but we can certainly try to prepare for them. Here are some ways to prepare:

  • Listen – to your customers, to your supporters and to those who might not support you.

  • Follow – trends in your industry, thought leaders and decision makers.

  • Engage – with your customers, your staff and those thought leaders and decision makers. In fact, if you do this before a crisis happens, you’ll find it much easier in a crisis.

  • Plan – for the topsy turvy days. What is your process for responding? Who needs to be involved? Do you have multiple time zones covered? Do you have answers to possible questions already planned? Have you practiced your plan?

If you’re not sure that you’re prepared, I would strongly suggest setting time aside to do so. Create a crisis plan. Create a customer response plan. And, if you can’t do so yourself, ask an expert to help you. My friend Jim Lukaszewski has helped companies around the world be better prepared. Gerard Braud is another well-respected crisis expert who helped with the response following Hurricane Katrina and many other high profile crisis events. And there are many more communicators well-versed in what to do.

We all need to plan. It doesn’t take that long. And the most important piece today is to honestly tell the truth to your customers so they’ll stick with you when the chips are down.

Photo: B Funari; via Flickr, CC 2.0

The Barber Group

Gig Harbor, Washington


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