“Every employee is a public relations representative and crisis manager for your organization, whether you want them to be or not.” – Jonathan Bernstein, Bernstein Crisis Management Inc.
What a scary statement! That in a crisis, the fate of your company depends on each and every member of your staff – and that you don’t even have a choice in the matter. Although true to every word, this can be a paralyzing notion that leads to one of three things: denial, resistance or acceptance.
Lets explore this notion further because until you reach acceptance, you’ll find that this reality will simply not be your friend!
Fact #1: Each one of your employees has an active social media presence.
Fact #2: Each one of your employees has their own social graph (social connections).
Fact #3: At any point throughout a crisis, your employees may:
- Choose to mention or discuss the situation online
- Be approached with inquiries about the events unfolding
- Be sought out by reporters or bloggers covering the crisis
Fact #4: Their answers may innocently result in further damage and/or complications for your brand.
Fact #5: This is not what most people would call advantageous in a troubling matter!
Fact #6: There are precautionary measure that any and all companies and organizations can take to help eliminate this threat.
How can you protect yourself?
If your employees are inevitably going to play such a major role at such a critical time for your company, how do you protect yourself and make sure that it doesn’t come back to cripple you even further?
There are some specific preliminary strategies for you to put into effect before a crisis, that will turn this potentially unpleasant reality into an efficient opportunity to regain control of the crisis quicker, resolve it sooner and come out of it in one very complete piece.
Step #1: Have a crisis plan in place
It all starts here. Your crisis plan is what will get you through a crisis quickly, efficiently and above all else, smoothly. If you skip this step, well, never mind worrying about your employees, because without a social media crisis plan, that’ll be the least of your worries!
Step #2: Train your staff
Your crisis communication plan is your secret weapon, but should in no way be kept a secret. – Melissa Agnes
Once you have a crisis plan in place, it does no good unless all members of your staff understand it and know what’s expected of them – and there’s only one way to make sure of this: you need to tell them and show them. Your employees need to be directed and guided before a crisis strikes, so that just like you, they’re prepared and understand the rules of the game.
Step #3: Practice makes perfect
As a fire drill secures the safety of everybody within your building in the event of a fire, the same goes for your social media crisis plan. Once your entire team understands their role and what’s expected of them, it’s time to put them to the test and practice each scenario. The more you practice the higher your chances of coming out of the crisis in speedy time and with limited repercussions to your brand.
Step #4: Be open and honest with every member of your staff throughout a crisis
Many companies make the mistake of not sharing all information with their staff, and in many cases this leads to more complications, misunderstandings and consequences that could have easily been avoided. It’s very important that you make all information regarding the crisis accessible to all. A great way to go about doing this is to set up some kind of an internal communication platform before a crisis presents itself. This could be by means of an internal blog, intranet, forum or any other communication platform that allows for real-time updates as they unfold, and two-way conversations between each member of your staff.
Step #5: Make your social media crisis policy accessible to all
Your social media crisis policy documents each step of your crisis plan, including the role of each and every member of your staff. Your crisis policy is an invaluable tool and point of reference that needs to be easily accessible to every member of your team, at all times. This will prove itself a tremendous reference tool for anybody with hesitations or questions during the crisis, and will save you from wasting time revisiting the plan and answering those questions – allowing you to spend your time where it counts: extinguishing the fires.
A secret tip
A crisis builds up quickly and then takes on a life of it’s own, and if you plan to survive it then you need all the help you can get. The secret is to plan smart and understand the role that your employees play in an attack.
Here’s a tip: Skip the denial and resistance and accept that your staff plays a public role in a crisis. Then use this to your advantage to steer your brand through a crisis with speed, agility and all the help you can get!
“Every employee is a public relations representative and crisis manager for your organization, whether you want them to be or not.” How do you plan to use this to your brand’s advantage during a crisis? Share your comments with me below!
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.