How to Turn a Crisis Into an Opportunity

Three Keys to Crisis Response Planning

CSI - Courtroom Sciences Inc


Companies generally view a crisis as disastrous, expensive, and disruptive, pulling resources away from other priorities and demanding immediate attention. While a crisis may be all of those things, if handled correctly with proper crisis response planning, a business may still be able to turn a crisis into an opportunity.

A social media crisis can strike at any time, with the devastating potential to hurt your organization's ability to do business. Something as unassuming as a single, solitary negative post or comment has the potential to capture the attention of the public, becoming amplified across social media platforms, and resulting in even more widespread media coverage, ultimately spinning out of control and severely impacting an organization. 

The ability to turn a crisis into an opportunity requires three keys for proactive planning: 

● Establishing a formal crisis plan

● Regularly identifying new threats

● Practicing your crisis communication plan

At Courtroom Sciences, our critical communications experts help mitigate future litigation with psychology-based crisis communications strategies intended to prevent, mitigate, manage, and recover from a crisis.

What actions should businesses take to shorten a crisis?

When it comes to managing a social media crisis, the initial response sets the tone for everything that comes after. Organizations must focus on effective communication strategies and tactics, adapting as the crisis unfolds and creating the appropriate narrative. The crisis response should focus on a narrative that establishes credibility by taking responsible actions, understanding what caused the issue, and defining and communicating how the company will address it. Companies also need to be adaptable, willing to keep evolving as the situation changes to maintain credibility.

Key #1: Crisis Response Planning and Prevention

Central to crisis management is prevention, which begins with establishing a formal crisis plan. Crises frequently come when least expected, which is why it's critical to have a plan in place that identifies roles and procedures for dealing with a social media crisis. Knowing who will make public statements and any approval processes creates the advantage of crafting a speedy response.  

Southwest Airlines is an example of how a quick response time and honesty and authenticity were vital for mitigating a potential social media crisis. In 2013, Southwest Flight 345 landed nose first at LaGuardia airport, where about 10 of the approximately 150 passengers on board suffered minor injuries. Within minutes of the accident, Southwest had posted statements on their social media platforms, with additional follow-up information shared in a similarly timely manner. 

This kind of proactive response, informing the public about the incident immediately allowed Southwest to control the narrative and maintain a positive relationship with customers. Having a crisis plan in advance allowed Southwest to respond quickly and effectively to an unfolding situation. 

Key #2: Consistently Identifying New Threats

Organizations and the world at large are constantly evolving and adapting, and to be prepared, businesses must work to identify new threats regularly. As companies identify these potential threats, they have to remember to look both externally and internally. 

Anthem Inc. is an example of a company that reacted positively to an increasingly common external threat, a cyber attack. In 2015, Anthem Inc. suffered a data breach that resulted in 80 million stolen social security records. Rather than waiting for the hackers to make public demands or for the media to report on the story, Anthem preemptively released a statement to their customers, set up a dedicated website to support customers whose data was breached and offered free credit monitoring. 

While companies may be more inclined to look at external sources for new threats, internal threats are also a concern, and sometimes these threats come from unexpected sources. In 2011, the American Red Cross posted a surprisingly out-of-character tweet. This tweet was accidentally sent by an employee who inadvertently tweeted from the company's profile rather than their personal account. While the American Red Cross did delete the tweet, they also followed up with another tweet that acknowledged the mistake and put a humorous spin on the situation. A microbrewery that was tagged in the errant tweet even went a step further in capitalizing on the opportunity by calling for donations to the American Red Cross. This efficient reaction ensured that the potential harmful tweet never turned into a social media crisis. 

Key #3: Practicing Your Crisis Response Messaging

Too many companies are practicing their crisis response messaging by responding to a current crisis, resulting in unintended blunders and chaos. One of the biggest mistakes that companies tend to make is becoming defensive, rushing to defend themselves instead of focusing their message on the viewpoint of their audience. Contrast that to companies with a solid crisis response plan, who don't have to scramble to determine their crisis protocol or frantically try to craft an effective social media response. 

A social media crisis isn't an isolated event that may happen once to a company and never occur again. Contrary, social media crises are a considerable risk facing businesses both large and small every day, with no brand or industry immune to this risk. General Motors is a company that has made headlines on more than one occasion, including in 2009 when the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and in 2014 when the company announced the recall of 1.6 million cars that link to 12 deaths. 

Social media networks became an essential tool for General Motors as they were flooded with negative comments after the recall. General Motors responded to each comment first publicly, answering questions, and then privately, asking customers to message them directly to work out individual resolutions. While the negative comments remain public, so does the company's response, allowing other followers to see how the company was working to assist customers. Furthermore, in some cases, customers then chose to publicly share their outcome resolutions, such as one customer who was on an island and unable to get her car to a dealership. GM arranged to pay the transport cost to the nearest dealer, 300 miles away, and required a ferry. 

Mitigate the risks of a social media crisis by ensuring that your company's crisis team includes crisis communications experts who are adept at creating psychology-based messaging that will resonate in a crisis. At Courtroom Sciences, we know that social media crises demand a sophisticated approach. Our crisis and litigation communications experts will assist in highly responsive crisis response planning with policies and practices that protect and defend your company's reputation. Please speak with one of our critical communications experts to get started. 

Key Takeaways

● The ability to turn a crisis into an opportunity requires three keys: establishing a formal crisis plan, regularly identifying new threats, and practicing your crisis communication plan.

● It's critical to have a plan in place that identifies roles and procedures for dealing with a social media crisis.

● Businesses must identify new threats regularly, looking both externally and internally.  

● Courtroom Sciences' crisis and litigation communications experts can assist highly responsive crisis response planning.

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