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April 16, 2013 Transcript of #CommsChat on crisis comms

Last week, we were joined by a roster of esteemed crisis management and PR guests including: Nick Parker from The Writer, Enda Joyce from Hanover and Lisa Ronchetti from Ad Hoc PR. We discussed leadership, social media and reputation in crisis communications. And much more.

Here are some highlighted tweets:

  • @endajoyce77: A decent plan gives comms a crucial seat at the boardroom table where vital decisions are made.
  • @Maxim_PR: If you have prepared comments, contacts, spokespeople etc, breaking bad news should have fewer repercussions.
  •  ‏@padraic_knox it’s not just crises larg orgs need crises plans for, also important coming up to major org/restructuring announcement
  • @adhocpr very often the best spokesperson is someone with a genuine understanding of the issues and a confident speaker
  • @endajoyce77 Once lost, trust is incredibly difficult to regain.
  • @TheWriter Be honest. And get your tone just right for your brand: formal sounds shifty, but too slick whiffs of insincerity.

And the full transcript:

 

  1. Chance for comms team to prove their worth.Plan, practice and perform when the chips are down.

  2. As always, transcript up tomorrow am. G’night all.

  3. T5 effective comms can also improve internal morale

  4. Alrighty, our hour’s up. Many thanks to our guests tonight and to all who chipped in their thoughts on crisis comms.

  5. Remember the 3 Cs Clarify, Coordinate & Converse & know when to reach for legal advice

  6. That’s where also gaining new followers can be important too, especially in social media, I believe.

  7. Be honest. And get your tone just right for your brand: formal sounds shifty, but too slick whiffs of insincerity.

  8. 5 min left, let’s take final thoughts from our three guests. Any lasting wisdom ?

  9. you get seen through a prism of your mistake for a long time. Everything you do after can be tainted by past failure

  10. I really don’t think you should continue given the subject you’re discussing & what had happened

  11. . Thoughts with those in Boston. Absolutely awful news.

  12. Good! How can you use good humour? Any tips?

  13. RT : T5: Long term reputation can be ruined by poor crisis comms. Also important to build reputation BEFORE

  14. even with the best plan, perfect announcement, cascade and top notch support structure!

  15. We’ll keep going for the moment, only 10 min to go, but this just in:

  16. bear in mind tho, unfortunately in crises / delivering bad news, will always b certain level of criticism / negativity

  17. Those are similar,but different situations. So, I gues needs vary too.

  18. T5: Long term reputation can be ruined by poor crisis comms. Also important to build reputation BEFORE a crisis strikes

  19. T4 effective can also, depending on situation and organization, include a bit of humor

  20. that one of the worst case scenarios obviously

  21. Staff moral internally can be damaged and brand trust externally is lost as well as valuable customers

  22. poor Comms=EES going to the media, newspaper articles, radio appearances announcing org is not communicating clearly

  23. It might be wise to stop given the breaking news.

  24. Poor response can have a long-term negative impact on employee morale. Staff can be embarrassed to admit where they work.

  25. T$ – speed of response is now essential, if you don’t say something immediately rumour and speculation build online and offline

  26. People can sniff out ungenuine and manufactured responses. Keep them real or your comms will fall on deaf ears

  27. So we’ve got just over 10 min to cover T5: What are the reputational impacts crisis comms can have on a company?

  28. She was pretty terrible. It was exhausting to watch.

  29. I agree, replace the word but with and. The tone and meaning changes instantly!

  30. yep cringe and wrong person for that interview

  31. Ah yes. We had a D Mail story recently which was manufactured. Largely ridiculed by commentariat. Superb!

  32. Effective response provides a springboard to reposition organisation and improve relationships with key audiences

  33. T4: Good crisis comms are essential if an organisation is to maintain loyalty and trust. Should also prevent false rumours

  34. good to remember RT : Interesting points. Comms needs for a failing business different to one successful but in crisis.

  35. speed is crucial. Hold your hands up, admit your mistake and say sorry. You’ll win most people over with just that

  36. Interesting points. Comms needs for a failing business different to one successful but in crisis.

  37. RT @endajoyce77@CommsChat Key Obama adviser: “never let a serious crisis go to waste”. Good opportunity to redefine reputation.

  38. MT : Good opportunity to redefine reputation.

  39. RT : “never let a serious crisis go to waste”. Good opportunity to redefine reputation.

  40. If you are 100% sure you of your ground the Jordon Sandals statement was a fab example of turning crisis into humour

  41. informed public, engaged staff, general acceptance (depending on situation) – even some sympathy.

  42. Benefits: O2 example again — honesty and confidence win you credibility, loyalty and fans.

  43. . Key Obama adviser: “never let a serious crisis go to waste”. Good opportunity to redefine reputation.

  44. . Don’t even get me started on ‘I’m sorry… but…. ‘ apologies aaaahhhhhh

  45. T4’s similar 2 what’s been said: How can effective comms mitigate or extenuate crisis? Let’s look at benefits 2 good crisis comms

  46. And the detail of the language makes this: ‘we’re really sorry’ v different from ‘apologies for inconvenience

  47. But they may have been salvageable had it been handled better. Possibly!

  48. often scared of the repercussions! Sad state of affairs but often organisations fear admitting blame

  49. need to be clear at the start. Set out facts. Not communicating well means others fill the void

  50. MT Sometimes you just have to put your hands up, apologise + admit u got it wrong. A bit of humility can go a long way

  51. Yes. Defensiveness = disaster. The Pontins owner on Watchdog was a good example.

  52. . Important to distinguish between poor comms & bad business model. Northern Rock had both

  53. The word sorry is massively underrated, some people refuse to ever say it!

  54. the danger of the net – everything can be retraced

  55. Also worth remembering that ‘poor’ comms can sometimes mean ‘too slick’. SSE’s recent apology was ‘all a bit too Tesco’.

  56. 2/2 T3 had no trouble yet engagement with the public showed a human side and won a whole new type of ‘following’

  57. MT : Sometimes you have to put your hands up, apologise and admit you got it wrong. A bit of humility can go a long way

  58. T3 Sometimes you just have to put your hands up, apologise and admit you got it wrong. A bit of humility can go a long way

  59. V true. Social media loves nothing more than picking endlessly over badly delivered messages. See recent Tesco stuff

  60. imagine going into a highly unionized semi state compared to fresh blue chip! Channels & support would differ

  61. For some organisations it can be fatal. e.g. Northern Rock

  62. Sadly, yes >> RT : It’s a v simple equation: Poor comms response = probably guilty / lying / got something to hide

  63. RT : anger fuelled by mistrust. Recovering in a crisis is all about earning trust and rebuilding confidence

  64. . Clear parallels between business and real life. Too often commons sense goes out the window in both!

  65. It’s a v simple equation: Poor comms response = probably guilty / lying / got something to hide

  66. RT : lack of clarity at start will impact your entire programme/ crises. Question over everything that follows

  67. anger fuelled by mistrust. Recovering in a crisis is all about earning trust and rebuilding confidence

  68. A3: dragging the crisis out for longer. Doing more damage to the brand.

  69. also bad affect on reputation, can leave loyal audiences or clients feeling they have been let down

  70. . Poor comms during a crisis has effects – loss of credibility, trust, ext. confidence – that will endure long after

  71. lack of clarity at start will impact your entire programme/ crises. Question over everything that follows

  72. Very true – if you have a strong presence hopefully people would check your official channels for the truth

  73. RT : . Once lost, trust is incredibly difficult to regain. ” not just in comms but real life too.

  74. t3 mixed msgs, confusion, morale issues, disgruntled staff and customers/public plus damage to bus/org reputation

  75. T3: Communicating poorly can, at the very least, cause irreparable damage to a brand – people have very long memories

  76. on a monetary level, effects your customers esp if customer facing or call centre environment!

  77. . What happens once it snowballs? consequences?

  78. RT : You need to keep a least one level in reserve (spokesperson wise) in case the situation escalates

  79. very true. RT : . Once lost, trust is incredibly difficult to regain.

  80. company culture and trust levels also important

  81. T3: Goodness – the consequences of communicating poorly are endless! Loss of loyalty and faith at all stakeholder levels

  82. poor communication in a crisis is the beginning of a snowball effect. Hard to recover once in motion

  83. . Once lost, trust is incredibly difficult to regain.

  84. RT: Style of message delivery is more important than who. They need to be confident and able to not just recite a script

  85. you lose the trust of employees and customers

  86. A3: People stuck on the M11 in snow; the monarch being accused of being heartless….list goes on

  87. To prevent them too. If your social media presence is strong enough, then that’d help.

  88. Best case: you look a bit amateurish. Worst case, you make everything much worse!

  89. Style of message delivery is more important than who. They need to be confident and able to not just recite a script

  90. The culture you have harvested in the years prior to crises or “big news” will play a huge part in your plan

  91. You need to keep a least one level in reserve (spokesperson wise) in case the situation escalates

  92. depends on levels of trust. Do EEs believe your CEO or Senior team only make difficult division when needed

  93. That brings us to topic three: What are the consequences of communicating poorly?

  94. RT : It probably wouldn’t but journalists don’t want to find out from Twitter, and neither do staff.

  95. RT : very often the best spokesperson is someone with a genuine understanding of the issues and a confident speaker

  96. you might have more detail initially in the staff message if you work on the basis of internal first.

  97. O2’s twitter feed during their last network outage still one of best examples of joined up social media.

  98. RT : very often the best spokesperson is someone with a genuine understanding of the issues and a confident speaker

  99. RT : T2: no point suddently deciding to use social media in a crisis. You have to already have built it as a channel

  100. When a crisis is so great, sometimes only the CEO will do as spokesperson…even if not best media perfomer

  101. It probably wouldn’t but journalists don’t want to find out from Twitter, and neither do staff.

  102. very often the best spokesperson is someone with a genuine understanding of the issues and a confident speaker

  103. Very wise, got to be people with the latest info to hand who can communicate the facts and put minds at rest if possible

  104. absolutely build the communities and then you can speak to them in a crisis using SM

  105. Knowledge of the incident/topic is essential. High-level spokespeople can seem aloof if they lack it.

  106. Sadly I think they are finding this out in Boston at the moment. Terrible.

  107. T2: no point suddently deciding to use social media in a crisis. You have to already have built it as a channel

  108. why would the internal message be any different to external?

  109. exactly. Need to engage and it potentially reaches more people. We set up dedicated social media teams in crisis

  110. Good point >> RT : Choice of spokesperson is crucial. Chairman or Chief Ex may not be most appropriate or effective.

  111. . Depends on severity of incident. Board rarely know detail and can be vulnerable if deployed at wrong time.

  112. anything put out internally has the potential to be on social media in seconds. Worth remembering

  113. T2: Lots of organisations would shy away from social media in a crisis but it’s vital to have a presence to correct rumours

  114. Absolutely – with the opportunity for 2 way. This is when social can come into it’s own over email/video

  115. timing and order is vital and must be thought through to consider esp listed companies

  116. true! Hidden truths and rumors can fly if announcements are leaked. Need to brief EEs v quickly

  117. not just about leaks – organisations need to be transparent no choice in SM age

  118. For traditional print media, my current advice is: don’t just copy Tesco’s apology ad style!

  119. Timing crucial. If org leaks like sieve, internal soon becomes external.

  120. however in crises team getogether not feasible! Your crises plan may lead to larger groups as everyone is pulled

  121. Who is best placed to be a spokesperson?

  122. very true, has to be dictated by circumstances

  123. Tell Internal stakeholders before/same time as external. Speed, clarity, honesty, engagement make or break message.

  124. yes, we work on a lot of energy projects (power stations, wind farms etc) and it’s vital.

  125. Choice of spokesperson is crucial. Chairman or Chief Ex may not be most appropriate or effective.

  126. I’d have internal first if possible. Nothing worse than getting bad news from an external source!

  127. Generally because if a blast furnace goes bang, it leaves a large mess. But it should be practised everywhere.

  128. some orgs shy away from bad news. Need to try and control the message. Especially in social media. Respond and engage

  129. The type of news could also determine how to do it.

  130. much better to hear bad news in a trusted environment of your immediate team than large gathering

  131. internal msg has to come first whatever happens, even if only by minutes

  132. Why is that specific to industry? RT : In heavy industry, rehearsing every aspect of a crisis is almost mandatory.

  133. Quickly and honestly — and consistent with your brand’s tone of voice.

  134. if you have a strong people manager community that can be trusted, use these as a Comms Chanel.

  135. RT : depends on culture, trust and level of engagement! This will determine channel

  136. Agreed. Even when that’d involve forgetting about the effort previously made.

  137. Consistency and clarity is so important! Plus quickly! You can’t wait to know everything and to delay leads to rumour

  138. bad news should be communicated quickly and as open and transparent as possible. Hidden truths lead to further crisis

  139. In heavy industry, rehearsing every aspect of a crisis is almost mandatory.

  140. depends on culture, trust and level of engagement! This will determine channel

  141. well…perhaps not perfect, but near enough!

  142. . Consistency across all channels is crucial. Messaging and delivery to internal & external audiences must be synched.

  143. We’d argue it’s essential, especially if a company goes to the trouble of investing in a plan

  144. Don’t forget staff who have co/org twitter accs they can help spread the msg if they know what it is. Set up internal dist lists

  145. Well put. Also important to game out absolute worst-case scenarios, not just ‘soft’ crisis, however uncomfortable.

  146. Yes. It’s not just the apocalypse. Things like price rises, job cuts are crises that can be planned for.

  147. Agree that it’s about *what* you plan: stress-testing and practice the key things.

  148. plan helps you respond quickly as responsibilities are clear and some prep can be done to ensure noone gets forgotten!

  149. Let’s look at T2: How should business leaders communicate bad news via social and traditional media?

  150. crises in orgs can also occur if major restructuring announcements are leaked. IC profs must know how to handle

  151. Yes have a crisis plan,but in an unpredictable world be prepared to revise/abandon it to respond to changing situation.

  152. MT : not just crises large orgs need crises plans for, also impt. coming up to major org/restructuring announcement

  153. which could easily happen. Until you try these things, you don’t really know how it’s going to pan out.

  154. RT : Why the hell wouldnt you plan? Nobody contests fire drills. Its the same thing: whos wearing the comms tabard?

  155. it’s not just crises larg orgs need crises plans for, also important coming up to major org/restructuring announcement

  156. Why the hell wouldn’t you plan? Nobody contests fire drills. It’s the same thing: who’s wearing the comms tabard?

  157. Too right. Imagine if the plan was wrong?

  158. we’ve seen people go to pieces when a camera is put in front of them, even during a rehearsed ‘crisis’

  159. MT : As well as having plan, vital to practice it. You dont want the first time you test to be during a crisis.

  160. Agreed – still needs buy in on some boards.

  161. T1: Crisis can affect staff across an org. Comms planning & leadership in a crisis can keep staff morale up, on message etc

  162. Yes and you will never know the nature of the crisis but a toolkit in place will make things easier if it occurs

  163. . Agree, a plan is not much use without practice in advance.

  164. hi all,will try participate by phone tonight,left laptop in work and Comms chat website is blocking my tablet as spam

  165. As well as having a plan, it’s vital to practice it. You don’t want the first time you put it to the test to be during a crisis.

  166. . Plan enables people to concentrate on their role.Comms team needs to focus on key audiences.

  167. It also helps everyone stay on msg. Last thing you want in a crisis is people writing their own script as you go

  168. definitely, social media can be your best asset if you get it right but your enemy if ignored!

  169. MT : prepare a social media policy and communicate it & have a 24 hour team to be able to handle it – timing is crucial

  170. important to clearly set out who is responsible for what. Key people need to be pulled together

  171. RT : A decent plan gives com gives comms a crucial seat at the boardroom table where vital decisions are made.

  172. why a plan? So that they can respond quickly and correctly to the situation.

  173. prepare a social media policy and communicate it as well as a having 24 hour team to be able to handle it – timing is crucial

  174. Need the right contacts at the right time when something breaks.

  175. Having a plan means you can test whether fundamentals will survive heat of crises.

  176. Because there’s no time for egos – but they don’t cease to exist! Roles&responsibilities defined in advance is crucial

  177. If you don’t plan ahead, guaranteed yr tone of voice will go out the window, as non-comms people often end up writing the stuff

  178. MT : Theres no time to think when crisis happens – comms toolkit essential. Template key messages, releases, tweets

  179. RT : If you have prepared comments, contacts, spokespeople etc, breaking bad news should have fewer repercussions.

  180. RT : If you have prepared comments, contacts, spokespeople etc, breaking bad news should have fewer repercussions.

  181. Difficult to plan for the unexpected. But, planning can build internal infrastructure to help your organisation cope

  182. There’s no time to think when a crisis happens – the trusty comms toolkit is essential. Template key messages, releases, tweets

  183. But does it? How many companies focus on the crisis, but not communicating about it?

  184. Because when crisis strikes, you want to spend yr time thinking about the important stuff, not the basics.

  185. In the event of a crisis, you have to respond quickly. Can’t be waiting for sign off or discussing what to say!

  186. to respond to the unexpected swiftly and with accuracy

  187. If you have prepared comments, contacts, spokespeople etc, breaking bad news should have fewer repercussions.

  188. RT : A decent plan gives com gives comms a crucial seat at the boardroom table where vital decisions are made.

  189. virtually all crises are unexpected so planning not easy. It’s more about speed and content of response

  190. MT : If youve never taken part, check it out to chat with other comms pros. Simply use hashtag for next hr to join in

  191. A decent plan gives com gives comms a crucial seat at the boardroom table where vital decisions are made.

  192. Hi, I work for a large manufacturer. Curious to know about approaches to social media use for crises.

  193. Hi Britanny, interesting that TV broke news of Thatcher’s death. Perhaps an indication of influence of Tim Bell.

  194. If you’ve never taken part in , do check it out to chat with other comms pros. Simply use the hashtag for the next hour to join in

  195. 1st topic is: Why must a company have a crisis preparedness plan in place? Plz remember to use the tag when posting!

  196. We’ll be joined by a few guests: from , Lisa from and Nick from

  197. Crisis Comms is tonight’s topic. Looking forward to listening, learning and contributing. Usual heads up to followers for nxt hr

  198. Not, as suggested, news about Breaking Bad…but, bonus points to anyone who can make that relevant to

  199. …tonight we’re gonna talk about how companies break bad news.

  200. Evening all, Brittany here. Last week (for good or bad) the news broke that Margaret Thatcher’s had died…

 

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