Crisis management is a professional reputation management strategy that mitigates the damage caused by a public relations crisis. Crises like these often arrive unexpectedly, and when they do, online coverage spreads rapidly. News may go viral, including published content that is misleading, exaggerated, or intentionally falsified. The spread and endorsement of fake news has become a modern online epidemic, resulting in an increasingly misinformed general public. Whether you’re in crisis or not, it’s crucial to have an elite team in place who knows how to properly expand and improve your digital footprint, as well as implement a strategy to handle emergency situations with discretion and effectiveness.
The most important tenet of crisis management is that it’s vital to have a plan in place before a crisis hits. Time is of the essence when it comes to a PR crisis, and most crises, by their nature, come with very little advance warning. The more work you do ahead of time, the better positioned you’ll be to adapt to the specifics of a given crisis.
By its nature, a crisis exists outside of your control. All the more reason to control what you can ahead of time so you’re prepared when something does arise. This takes a variety of forms: building out your owned web properties to ensure that you retain as much control of your brand image as possible; developing an ally network who can be leveraged before a crisis hits; and ensuring your crisis management plan is in place, ready to execute at a moment’s notice.
Having the right people on a crisis response team–including key executives, PR professionals and social media experts–is critical, as is identifying the spokesperson or -people who will be speaking for your company or organization. An external partner is often helpful, as they can bring expertise you may not have in-house, such as online reputation management and SEO. They can also help train your spokespeople in crisis communications, and assist you in developing and executing your plan.
When a crisis hits, you’ll have to respond through a variety of channels—from PR to social media to your customer email list—in order to get your message to the right people. Neglecting any of these channels can hamstring a crisis management effort, allowing bad news to spread unchecked.
You can develop the right crisis messaging, but you’re dependent on other people to distribute it. Just as you must understand what channels to distribute your message, you need to cultivate groups of people who can help amplify it in response to a breaking crisis. These include:
Your PR network of journalists is critical for getting your crisis response out to the largest audience possible, especially if your crisis is playing out in the national media.
Equally important is a network of allies who can come to your defense. This might include nonprofits or foundations where you have an active role, educational institutions, satisfied customers, and influential voices in your space with whom you’ve built a positive relationship.
Don’t overlook your own employees–each and every one of them can serve as an advocate for you. They need to know how to respond to a crisis, what questions they’re authorized to respond to, and who to refer questions to.
While it’s possible for a crisis to hit with no warning whatsoever, depending on the type of crisis you’ll likely have some sense of what’s coming, especially if it’s rooted in something internal, such as a poor earnings report or an upcoming layoff. Actively monitoring social networks and mentions of your brand, as well as the responses your customer satisfaction department is receiving, can help you anticipate a crisis as it bubbles up from the grassroots level, and perhaps fix the underlying issue before it becomes a full-blown crisis.
Once the genie’s out of the bottle, it’s incredibly difficult to put back in–but rapid response to an emerging crisis is essential to blunting its impact. The longer a story is out in the world, the more time it has to take root and spread unchecked. If you’ve planned properly, it may be possible to proactively respond to an imminent crisis before it breaks, giving you more control of the narrative.
It’s critical that stakeholders, such as your employees, customers, and investors, are up-to-date on your response to a crisis–and that they hear it from you, rather than the news.
With the right crisis management team, recovery is not only possible, but your online reputation can be stronger and more secure than it ever was before.
A crisis can come from any number of sources. In many cases, the worst crises aren’t the fault of anybody at your company–a reporter may get the facts wrong, a rival may plant a false story about your company or its executives, or a quote may be misinterpreted or taken out of context. With a national media desperate for viewers and a pervasive internet “gotcha” culture, what seems to be a small issue can quickly spiral out of control.
The most important time for crisis management is before the crisis hits–when you develop your plan and identify and train your team. This is the time to take control of your digital footprint, ensuring you control as much of the search landscape associated with your brand as possible. It is in laying this groundwork that a comprehensive, proactive reputation management plan is highly effective. The more work you put in ahead of time, the more avenues you’ll control in the event of a crisis to distribute your messaging and control the narrative.
If you’re fortunate, you’ll have a brief window of time when you know a crisis is coming but it hasn’t yet broken. This time is critical–your chance to deploy your crisis management team, begin executing your plan, and proactively get your message out to stakeholders, employees, and your network of brand advocates.
As a crisis develops, it’s critical to adapt your messaging to its changing nature, while executing a comprehensive reputation management strategy. Even if you successfully mitigate the immediate impact of a crisis, the aftereffects can linger for years, appearing whenever someone searches for your name or your brand. A long-term reputation management strategy is critical to retaking control of the search landscape associated with your brand.
Crises arise when negative content stemming from a news cycle, social media post, community forum or review quickly appears in Google search results and gains viral traction. While an immediate crisis communications plan is essential to help ward off a developing threat, a long term plan is needed to push back against or reclaim search real estate from negative content that can gain a foothold in Google search results and the advanced search landscape and linger for years.
Traditional media coverage as part of a news cycle (newspapers, TV, etc) quickly metastasizes online, appearing in Google News and in the standard Google organic web results.
The level with which new content is engaged by social media users can play a role in where it appears within Google search. As a crisis spreads virally across Twitter or other platforms, it can solidify associated content in Google search that is hard to dislodge.
Similar to social media, user activity on community pages or forums such as Wikipedia can affect the level of impact a crisis situation has for your image online. Not only do these platforms have ranking potential among standard organic web results but content from these types of sources are often pulled into areas of the Google search landscape, earning them greater visibility.
Adverse user reviews may spark a crisis situation or perpetuate an existing issue sourced from elsewhere, as many take crisis situations as an opportunity to flood a brand’s review pages with negative or defamatory content. Reviews and star ratings are typically pulled into Google search in prominent locations, meaning a surge of poor reviews can cause lasting damage to your bottom line.
Our team has over 15 years of experience handling the digitally publicized crises of high profile individuals and some of the world’s most successful companies. With the right combination of people, tools, and expertise, we not only remedy past and current situations—we protect your reputation against future unknowns.
We are dedicated to conducting our service with transparency and stay in as much communication as you prefer about the things you care about most.
We operate on your behalf with complete discretion and confidentiality.
We’ve crafted a white-glove service that ensures your needs are unobtrusively attended to around the clock.
Our proprietary software, Chorus, lets us quickly identify and act on new opportunities and threats to your digital footprint. Chorus delivers a thorough analysis of your digital presence, allowing us to track your search results, monitor changes over time, and craft the most effective approach to defending and building your online reputation.
With high-profile clients from around the globe and unprecedented knowledge of search landscapes worldwide, we are the leading provider of international reputation management.