Crisis Pr Advice From Manchester Pr Agency
Heavy snow caused major disruptions for Eurostar passengers during December last year. Although travel operators are generally the best prepared for crisis PR, given the risks of delays, disruption and disaster, Eurostar was caught out by the speed of the crisis and how it played out across social networks.
Paul Smith of Manchester PR agency Citypress gives the following advice to companies that want to prepare for crisis communications.
"Preparation is still the best form of defence. Proactive risk analysis of the most likely and most serious crises which could affect your business can give you vital speed of response if your worst fears become reality. Pulling together relevant information which can help you formulate a response, such as your health and safety track record, can save hours of research time.
"For example, food companies should anticipate product recalls and have regulatory information to hand and procedures already in place while travel companies need to have tested their crisis response in anticipation of major disruptions such as terrorism alerts or extreme weather.
"You have a narrow time window in which to respond before media and your customers begin to suspect you're not in control. Your brand or business credibility is already under threat.
"Do you really want to make it worse by running around considering your crisis response and getting it approved while the issue is being debated online and journalists are damningly reporting that you have 'no comment'?
"Working with a reputable agency to assess risk, prepare statements and media train your key spokespeople means you can swiftly swing into action if your reputation is threatened. Most of your crisis budget should be wisely spent before any crisis because the cost of not being prepared can be far higher.
"Social media might not be on the marketing agenda for every business but companies increasingly need to monitor networks such as Facebook and Twitter because the potential for a reputational threat exploding virally on such network is very real.
"Businesses assuming that this damaging chatter is restricted to social networks are missing the point, they are sources of stories for media and increasingly fuel the trend towards 'real time' search, meaning criticism of your brand could quickly rank highly on Google.
"As a result, social media monitoring and response procedures must now be built into any crisis management strategy. What may seem like a relatively small number of people discussing your brand online can explode into a reputational threat very easily, as retailer Paperchase discovered in February when it was accused of design plagiarism. See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/feb/11/paperchase-design-hidden-eloise
"Such accusations are nothing new for major brands but a blog post was distributed around social networks and Paperchase, which had no social media presence prior to the accusation, allowed it to fester because it had no monitoring system in place.
"In the following days a simple Google search for 'Paperchase' returned more results for the plagiarism row than it did for the brand's official web presence.
"This is why proactive crisis management is so crucial. Get it wrong and the old adage about today's headlines being tomorrow's chip wrappers no longer brings comfort. Damaging headlines are actually tomorrow's search engine results. And they hang around for a lot longer."