Managing Crisis Communications in the World of 24/7 Citizen Reporters

Old school public relations is no longer effective in the world of 24/7 social media information, so there should be no expectations that traditional media management will be effective in a crisis. However, until you are in the throws of a crisis, you never really know what or how much exposure you will be managing. Take this opportunity to learn from those of us who have been there. Our sleepless nights can be your handbook for future success.

Through managing recent crisis communication situations, we have compiled valued lessons to share with our fellow communication professionals.

1. The media cycles with the moon

The news may not sleep, but fortunately, reporters do. Unfortunately, however, when the sun is down in one country, it is up in another. Be prepared for the cycles of the media. Within the first four hours of a recent international crisis we could predict the media cycles and when the influx of calls would come. Europe was first to call, followed by the east coast and Canada. Not far behind were the Central, Mountain & Pacific time zones. Many of the national outlets had LA offices covering the shooting, so we knew what time frame they were working on. We also knew our deadlines for follow-up and how to juggle interviews based on the time of their news broadcasts.

2. Social media will kill a good plan every time

There is nothing like a media black out to be exposed by Twitter. In a recent case, it was celebrity visits that were leaked. The visits were uplifting and incredibly appreciated, however keeping these visits “quiet” was all but impossible thanks to our world of social media. Expect tweets and Facebook photo posts to trigger an onslaught of media inquiries and induce the media to show up for their own photo opportunities. Arguments with reporters suck, so be prepared with how to answer questions you “can’t answer.” It’s a terrible position for a PR person to be placed in, but it is guaranteed to happen.

3. There will be audiences you have not yet thought of

The best laid communication plans will include all potential audiences. What I have learned is there will always be others you have yet to anticipate. Audiences on the periphery of your circle will have different motivations, and can innocently and inadvertently derail your primary messaging. They exist because they have access to communication vehicles that were not part of the news cycle a decade ago. Once they begin their own campaigns, you need to have a communication plan that deals directly with their needs and determines how to appropriately manage these additional audiences.

A crisis is a crisis because it is difficult to manage. Communication professionals train to deal with the challenges and are invaluable during a crisis, but even the best of us will all be tested and tired until the worst has passed. Expect the challenges, the long days and a lack of sleep. Bring an extra phone charger, plenty of coffee and call in assistance when you need it.

If you are interested in hearing more about crisis management, Tracy Weise will be speaking at the Colorado Health Care Communicators event on September 26, 2012 and again at the PRSA Colorado Springs Chapter on October 11, 2012. Or feel free to reach out to us at www.weiseideas.com or email Tracy at tracy@weiseideas.com.

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