Managing a Crisis in a Minute-to-Minute News Cycle

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Today’s media-driven world, defined by a 24-hour news cycle, has made managing a public relations crisis more difficult than ever and pinpointing where it originates much harder. That’s why The PR Club of New England held an event at Boston University where experienced panelists including Melissa Mahoney, Gary Sheffer and Dan O’Neill shared their knowledge on the topic. It covered everything from knowing how to formulate a strategy to what steps to take when a crisis strikes to the advantages of being transparent with customers.

Below are my top takeaways that all PR pros should keep top of mind. 

Then vs. Now: How crisis management has changed over the last 10 years

  • Speed: Ten years ago, PR pros had nearly a full day to thoughtfully construct a statement when crisis struck. Now, the media expects a statement within an hour of the situation breaking.

  • Attention Span: The average adult attention span has declined from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2016. This, along with Twitter’s 240-character limit, has forced communications pros to deliver their message more precisely and succinctly than ever before.

  • Visibility: It’s becoming harder to identify where threats originate. From workplace violence to data breaches, potential threats can be lurking around any corner.

Steps to take before and when a crisis hits

  • Before a crisis hits, go through a possibilities exercise to determine what potential scenarios will be most damaging to the brand.

  • Determine your first point of contact so you know who to call when you need to put out a fire.

  • Put on your journalist hat and ask, “What happened here?” Gather all the facts you can about the crisis and work to determine what the media will see as the story behind the story.

  • Identify any existing crisis plans or strategies you can quickly put in place to solve the problem.

  • If media isn’t jumping on the story, put the plans on ice until you need to use them.  

Lastly, acknowledging the emotion in a crisis can help take the sting out of it from a communications standpoint. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can help you deliver the human voice that customers expect. The facts are important but responding in a timely manner with transparent language shows that you care.

Kelsey Hoak is an intern at Greenough.

For more on The PR Club of New England event or tips on crisis communications, email us at info@greenough.biz  or fill out the form below.


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