Crises happen. Interestingly, how communicators handle a crisis now garners bigger headlines than the crisis itself. What used to be the stuff of case studies and water-cooler gossip among marketers now makes national headlines.
Perhaps reality TV has made us more interested in the exchanges that happen behind the scenes versus the actual performance. Or maybe it’s the voracious, instantaneous news cycle. The why doesn’t really matter much. How organizations fail to respond to a crisis affecting them is news, and it can be critically damaging to revenues, reputations and brands.
The pork industry’s traditional response to the swine flu outbreak (Forbes article) and the missteps in how Domino’s Pizza reacted to the YouTube video posted by two of its former employees (BusinessWeek article) are two very recent examples of this phenomenon. People began Twittering about how the organizations were handling, or not handling, the situations as the drama was literally unfolding.
What is so frustrating to observe is that solid crisis communications planning could have helped these organizations avoid such obvious pitfalls. Done correctly, crisis communications planning lays the foundation for a thoughtful, rapid-response approach. Effective crisis planning must help you quickly engage the right channels to deliver your message, mobilize your advocates and build dialogue with important stakeholders.
Too often communicators and marketers indefinitely postpone crisis communications planning, considering it a marketing luxury separate from their integrated marketing plans. What they fail to bear in mind when making that decision is that the time and cost associated with lost confidence is far greater than the cost of planning.
Senior Vice President
Director of Public Relations, North America