PR professionals know all too well that threats to a brand’s reputation can emerge any time, any place. And, since issues are often driven or escalated by social media, they develop at a frighteningly fast pace. Is yesterday’s crisis plan—in a binder on a shelf—really the most effective way to prepare in today’s day and age? I say not any longer.

Based on a recent survey of corporate executives, odds are, even if your client has a crisis plan, it’s likely out-of-date, inaccessible to those who need it when they need it, and unlikely to resolve the specific crisis they are encountering.

Another survey shows the majority of executives believe they are likely to be impacted by a crisis within the next two years. What they can’t tell you, or likely don’t know yet, is that the crisis plan they have on their shelf can’t resolve their issues.

Therein lies the threat.

Conversations I’ve had with hundreds of organizations point to the need for a new digital approach to planning, which is more direct, nimble, and quicker to implement. Solutions already exist and are being used successfully by companies around the world to monitor and mitigate crisis situations of all kinds.

Here are the most important digital age crisis lessons I’ve learned from executives I’ve spoken with and why digital solutions designed to respond quickly are necessary today.

Companies are not ready to respond as quickly as they thought they were

Even organizations with significant resources prove how difficult it is to react effectively and quickly.

Your client’s chances of facing a crisis are greater than they think

Deloitte reports80 percent of organizations worldwide have had to mobilize their crisis management teams at least once in the past two years.

Crisis plans are too long, complex & inaccessible

When the threat is driven at lightning speed by social media, there is no time to read through long, complex materials.

Crisis plans can be replaced with smart, digital protocols

These are actionable resources to quickly guide the team’s response to any issue. They include, for example: checklists and decision-making guidelines; crisp, clear policies for assessing quickly the level of risk; and step-by-step escalation procedures.

Companies cannot have enough social media tools, resources & training

Even if a threat does not originate on social media, there’s a good chance it will play out there.

Companies will try to say too much—and no one will listen

Remember KFC’s award-winning response to its crisis in the UK? An apology illustrated by the artful re-arrangement of ‘KFC’ to ‘FCK’. That’s how you break through clutter and have people pay attention.

Employees are the greatest asset your client will forget to deploy

There’s a growing understanding that employees can be a client’s best advocates when bad things happen.

A crisis is no longer always a crisis

When Nike launched the Colin Kaepernick campaign in 2018, it knew people would protest and burn shoes. Brand loyalists loved the campaign and shoe sales went up.

What a client is doing now is as important as what they will do in the moment

Be prepared, run drills and training workshops. In the first 12 hours of a crisis, social drives everything—so their preparations must be social-centric. Be ready to move fast.

What does this mean for PR professionals?

First, it’s truly time to become familiar with the realities I’ve outlined above. You also should speak with your clients to help them wrap their minds around crisis preparation and if they truly are ready to mobilize.

Is your crisis plan itself a crisis waiting to happen?Here are some great questions they can ask themselves to see how ready they really are.

  • What are your chances of facing a crisis?
  • Are you ready to respond quickly?
  • Is your current plan too complex or inaccessible?
  • Do you have protocols in place to address your level of risk?
  • Are your employees ready to mobilize?
  • And, what are you doing to monitor the landscape of social media?

If they can’t answer any of these questions, it’s likely time for a change of plan.

RockDove Solutions is the company behind the crisis management app, In Case of Crisis, trusted by more than 750 organizations worldwide to prepare for and respond agilely to a broad array of digital and traditional crises faced daily. The app allows functionality from reporting incidents, to scenario review, checklists, and conference call bridge lines, among many other features.

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Chris Britton

Chris Britton

Chris Britton is COO of RockDove Solutions, the company behind the #1 crisis management app, In Case of Crisis, trusted by more than 750 organizations worldwide.

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