The Value of Crisis Content
This week, we attended the CIPR Autumn conference which was held at the beautiful Hensol Castle.
The focus of this year’s conference was on the issue of trust in the PR industry – how do we build it and more importantly, rebuild it after a crisis?
Reputation management is vital, preparation is key and the ability to respond effectively and timely when a crisis hits is crucial. The day had a packed agenda, including two speakers who talked us through a crisis they faced – what went right, what went wrong and how they would tackle something similar in the future.
What struck me whilst listening to PR professionals talk through their experiences and what’s important when recovering an organisation’s reputation, was how useful it was to have strong content for PR purposes at your fingertips; here are the reasons why.
When a crisis breaks online, who you are as an organisation, your values, ethos and story should be clear and visible to anyone who clicks on your social media profiles. This came to mind during the first workshop of the day, hosted by Social Simulator’s Kate and Tim. It was a hands-on session, where all experienced a private digital environment that enabled us to respond to a made-up crisis ‘in real time’ on Twitter.
Representing a made-up Welsh organisation, we had to deal with the snowballing crisis of a job candidate alleging that they had been denied the opportunity to work with the company because of a mental health condition.
We had to work in teams to work out how we would respond, firstly to an initial tweet, and then to an influx of high-volume tweets from stakeholders, individuals, mental health charities and journalists. Clearly, this exercise required a lot of thinking on our feet in order to ensure the organisation’s reputation was maintained.
It was unanimously agreed that the following steps should be taken, to deal with a crisis like this:
- Pinned tweet with statement – We decided that one of the most effective steps to take would be a statement about who you are should be the first thing people see when they click on your social media profiles and even better to link to a video to show what kind of organisation you are, your values and even to hear from staff, to reassure.
- Revised social post schedule – make sure all scheduled content is reviewed, the last thing you’d want is for something to be posted that may fuel the fire!
- Clear key messages – be clear on what you need to communicate; such as values, positioning on the matter and any action you’re taking.
- Clear direction for further enquiries – this is essential, try and take the conversation offline (particularly when it’s a subject matter that’s quite private and sensitive.)
- Strict engagement strategy – From the offset, it’s vital to decide how and who to engage with. With an influx of tweets from various organisations, individuals, charities, it’s up to you to decide who to reply to and what to say. Make sure you’re clear on this with your team, so they feel empowered and confident to respond with clear messaging and purpose.
“It’s good to remember that trust is never owned by an organisation; it’s continuously on loan and must always be earned.” Steven Dodds, Harvest Agency.
Video content is a really effective way of building trust with audiences. Many large organisations have a responsibility to stakeholders who have a vested interest in business activity and maybe even to the general public. Your PR strategy will set out how you want to be seen and video content can really elevate how you influence this.
- Video content for a specific video campaign, usually shorter-life value
- Case Studies are really effective at building trust, the combination of hearing and watching first-hand accounts about an organisation’s services by service users are far more believable than a written account from the PR team.
Having mechanisms in place to help protect your reputation in the face of a crisis is really important, as we all know how quickly things can escalate! A strong corporate video can help reinforce your key messages and is a great place to link people to, particularly if their first impression has been less than ideal.
If you’re working in a Head of Communications role and have time to plan before a crisis really hits the fan and becomes public, we would highly recommend getting your senior management team on camera to make a statement. This is often received far better than a written statement, as seeing and hearing a person speak is usually more impactful and trustworthy. If you’ve never considered media training, it’s really worth ensuring that all your senior management team are prepped, trained and ready to speak on camera, if required.
‘Face to Face is best’
Rachel Moss, Communications Manager, from Wales Audit Office gave a really insightful talk about a major unfolding crisis that she and her team had to deal with. The impact of the crisis meant that a focused internal communications strategy was required, to keep staff in the loop as much as possible.
Rachel’s advice was that ‘face to face’ is best, for internal communications in a crisis, often an email to staff just doesn’t cut it. Engaging employees can with a physical briefing meeting can be tricky for large organisations, who often need to communicate important to their employees with a personal touch, seeing and hearing from senior management about important matters. It’s worth considering getting your CEO on camera addressing staff internally about the issue. When the president addresses the nation when there is a crisis, the only way face to face communication can be achieved on such a large scale is through video/
Whether it’s a CEO informing staff of big or supporting organisations to communicate huge change to employees, video makes internal communications much easier for large organisations, ensuring the exact message gets across and understood.
Clearly, the PR industry is fast moving, posing many challenges to organisations. To find out how your PR strategy could benefit from video content, get in touch!