Managing a Crisis Into a Better Career
By Lisa Wehr
In any disaster, there are opportunities...and rewards for the
In any crisis, there are casualties. Externally, there are
the direct victims whose lives are impacted by a specific
disaster. Then there are the organizational victims -- those
within a company whose futures rested on their ability to
manage the impact of a crisis. Here, the old crisis
communications rules no longer apply. Here, it's a viral age
where a camera phone can record and transmit disaster live,
as it unfolds. In this fast-moving environment, careers are
threatened, budgets over-extended, brands damaged...sometimes
Conversely, in any disaster, there are opportunities...and
rewards for the ready.
Champion a New Crisis Management Plan
You've seen the recent crisis stories - Imus and the Rutgers
women's basketball team, Jet Blue, Taco Bell- and you've
experienced how quickly the viral media expanded the stories
beyond the reach of the impacted organizations. It's
important that top management reflect on these disasters and
how their traditional crisis communications are not equipped
to deal with a viral spread of online information.
Review the current "what if." Review
established crisis management plans and point out
inadequacies given a viral world where images and
commentary can be found online before an internal
assessment team can be assembled. If there is no plan, use
examples to illustrate the need.
Sample the buzz. Do an online search of
recent relevant disasters and check news sites, blog
aggregators and social media including YouTube, Flickr and
iTunes. Forward some more graphic examples of poorly
managed online buzz.
Propose some solutions. Give management a
plan for developing a new plan and offer to play an active
role. Find what has worked recently for others. A white
paper on Crisis Management in a Viral Age is
available on our website, Oneupweb.com. It should provide a
good starting point.
The Crisis Planning Process
Here are the steps that should be part of any crisis planning
Scenario scripting -- Collect your peers
and brainstorm potential disasters that could happen to
your organization. When the lists are completed, you'll
find that they fall into a few definite categories.
Response Teams -- Once you've established
crisis categories, suggest teams for each, identifying
outside resources that may be needed.
Keyword Generation -- Prepare your online
response prior to a disaster occurring by creating lists of
potential keywords that might appear during a search for
particular kinds of disasters. Your press releases, online
video statements, paid advertising and blogs can easily
Optimizing for Benign Keywords -- Begin
optimizing your current sites, PR, blogs etc., to include
certain benign keywords that might be searched in a future
crisis. This will prevent delays in achieving a position on
Pre-Plan Pay-Per-Click Campaign Creative
-- Conceptualize likely scenarios in your major categories
and develop creative campaigns for an online and offline
response. Test them with a focus group audience and archive
your best campaigns in each category so you can roll them
out at a moment?s notice.
Identify the Social Media Landscape --
Your PR department should have a handle on the industry
analysts, key reporters, publications and bloggers to be
reached in a crisis. It's equally important to know the
social media sites, chat rooms and directories where
potentially damaging material may appear.
Video B-Roll -- Background video (B-Roll)
of a company during a news story can leave a lasting
impression. News media stuck with deadlines and decreasing
production budgets may welcome the footage. Maintain a good
B-Roll library. It will also aid the rapid production of
crisis video news releases or statements.
5 Ways to Leverage the Experience
After a crisis is weathered, here are five ways you and your
organization can profit from the experience:
By using carefully placed search marketing, you can
position your organization as stronger and more attuned
with its employees and customers.
Through podcasting, company executives can speak personally
and authoritatively about the proactive measures that can
be taken to manage a crisis.
Handled and positioned correctly, you may enjoy a 'halo
effect' identifying your company as one with exceptional
concern for the welfare of the public.
At minimum, a post-crisis analysis should lead to a process
that learns from and corrects your mistakes.
Finally, if you've responded to the challenge integrating
the best viral avenues available, you and your organization
will be perceived as a leader, attuned to the new realities
and opportunities in a changing marketplace.
TalentZoo.com is the online destination for both job seekers and employers in the communications industry. It's also a must for up-to-the minute content on industry trends, news, career guidance, or just to schmooze. Find a better life with Talent Zoo (http://www.talentzoo.com).
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