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Avoid ‘Cancel Culture’ with this crisis PR checklist

by | Jun 9, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

The consequences for mismanaging communications during an unfortunate situation can cost companies millions, employees their careers, and even ostracization from social media. Sometimes referred to as “Cancel Culture”, the fact of the matter is that thanks to social media, the speed at which bad news travels has only increased in both speed and impact.

That being said, a little bit of planning can go a long way. Below is a short checklist for staying ahead of trouble to avoid becoming the next “cancellation” in the headlines.

1. Prepare a crisis communication team

When a crisis hits, decision-makers and public relations experts need to get together to assess the situation. Knowing who the team will be can save precious time. This can consist of the CEO or CFO, senior-most PR executive, legal counsel, and other executives from different departments.

The team should set a process on how to communicate from the senior-most level to the junior-most staff. Let the staff know where it can report a crisis instead of attempting to address the media or the public on their own

2. Decide on how to respond quickly

One of the mistakes businesses make is taking time before they respond to a crisis. With the rise of social media, a problem spreads faster than forest fire and, in a few hours, people are aware of the situation.

The more they wait, the more damaging it gets. Before people can decide who the bad guy of a story is, it’s better to respond to the claims to shape the message. Remember, if you don’t tell your story, someone else will.

3. Show empathy

During a crisis, the difference between being the victim and the culprit is often about demonstrating empathy. Show empathy and acknowledge those who are suffering, whether the brand is at fault or not. The starting point of a crisis should be a response to what people affected are going through.

This can be done without taking on any liability and can help to shape an initial, quick response. Even a commitment to investigating further while expressing sympathy for those impacted by the situation can demonstrate that people are being treated as a priority over profits.

4. Anticipate crises by staying on top of trends

While you can’t know when and how a crisis will happen, you can anticipate. Paying attention to various trends on social media has never been easier thanks to the many tools available to firms. Watching how a brand’s competitors are responding, or what affinity groups are complaining about in a brand’s space can be the smoke that signals a fire is heating up.

5. Develop a crisis communication system that includes internal communications

Developing an internal crisis communication system is very important. Employees represent the company, and what they say in the middle of a crisis will either mitigate harm or make things worse. Create a two-way where you can reach the employees and where they can reach out to ensure that not only they know how to respond to the public, but also so that employees feel secure enough to not add to the public rumor mill on anonymous platforms.

Besides, when there is a communication crisis, the organization is in the spotlight of the public. Ensuring everyone in the organization gives the correct information and those with little knowledge answering with a no.

6. Identify your stakeholders

Stoke holders are a vital element in a company, and they get highly affected in case of a crisis. It’s crucial to identify both in-house and outside stakeholders and communicate to them promptly. Getting ahead of the public rumor mill can do a lot to ease the mind of stakeholders who will be watching the situation unfold in the public eye.

7. Review each crisis after it’s over

After a crisis has occurred and the wavering storm is over, the work is still not finished. It’s time to analyze and ask what can be learned from it, how to prevent such a crisis in the future, and what needs to change in handling a future crisis.

Reviewing these details can sometimes reveal new opportunities as well. Handling a crisis well, with empathy, can actually improve a brand’s reputation. After all, accidents happen, and while forgetting a problem ever occurred can be a goal, handling a bad situation well can actually create even more trust.

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Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations: 5WPR is one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

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