• Blog Post
  • by JD Bowles
  • August 02, 2017

Don’t Wait for a Bad Situation to Create an Online Crisis Communications Plan

With hurricane season approaching, we’re reminded that bad weather can mean more than just rainy days and super strong winds, it can mean the difference between providing real-time information to your audience and folks being left in the dark.

As PR practitioners, we don’t want to be insensitive in discussing these horrific events - weather or otherwise, but they are stark reminders that we need to take time to analyze our own Crisis Communication plans and how rapid our response would be under similar circumstances.

One facet of Crisis PR that needs more attention is addressing the crisis Online. Whether it’s a website, newsroom, social media, emails or texts, the very first place most journalists and people look when something bad happens is online. They need one voice from one source, and that should be you and not a 3rd party media outlet. Whether you’re a municipality, company, or even non-profit, what can you do to help strengthen this area of your overall PR strategy? Here’s a couple thoughts:

  1. Do you have an Online Newsroom with a Crisis Page? The crisis isn’t going away overnight, so after the initial reaction, you’ve got to have a single destination the press can go to get updates and gather information about your organization and leadership that a 140 character social post won’t cover. An Online Newsroom with a Crisis Page provides a perfect online destination, complete with relevant multimedia, press kits, and executive bios journalists would typically email and call you for. You can even set it up ahead of time so all you have to do is upload the important, timely content when it’s time to go live. Capturing their contact information before they download additional updates will also allow you to keep those same individuals informed in the future. Simply put, the Online Crisis Site IS the online destination for you and your organization in times of crisis.

  2. Social Media Channels - Twitter and Facebook in particular - have become the first stop for many journalists and the general public when seeking updates to major events. As you’ve also probably noticed, the media has made it a habit to just cover tweets and facebook posts and run with those for their story. With that said, you must define your social media message delivery tactics, assign staff to those tasks, and keep your posts clear and concise through one channel source. Those social posts can also feed onto your Online Newsroom or Crisis Site to remind those journalists that aren’t following you that your social channels are active in a crisis.

  3. Email - Just because Social Media has become such a dominant distribution medium doesn’t mean you ignore emailing journalists, internal staff, and your targeted audiences as to what’s going on in a crisis. Maybe they registered on your Newsroom or website for information prior to the crisis, or maybe you had their info in a database. Either way it doesn’t matter, keeping them informed can ultimately save lives by allowing them to share the story with others. Keeping the email succinct and providing a link back to a website or newsroom for more information will keep them up to date to what’s going on.

None of us imagine that horrible events could happen on our watch, but unfortunately they can. By being the source of the news rather than a 3rd party media outlet, being prepared for a crisis and executing that plan can save brand reputation, keep your audiences informed, and yes, even save lives. As we’ve helped our clients many times through these difficult situations, we’re happy to assist you as well.