The ultimate guide to crisis communication

There you are, just minding your own business as a brand when a crisis strikes. Sometimes in hindsight it’s something your brand should have seen coming and prepared for.

Other times it’s out of the blue and not something you could plan for, exactly, like Crockpot’s recent issues around the death of a popular character on a television show that was tied to their product.

Either way it’s best to have a plan in place and know who is responsible for each step of it, even if what eventually happens- because something always does- isn’t something you prepared for specifically. Having the practice will make you feel more prepared and your team will know who needs to spring into action at which steps, which can avoid a lot of confusion. A quick response from your brand can often keep a small crisis situation from snowballing into a much bigger one.

So let’s get into it! We’re sharing all of our crisis communication resources so you can get exactly the plan you need in place.

Got a question or something we missed? Find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics.

Establish the level of crisis you’re dealing with

In Everything you need to know about crisis management on social media, we break down the questions you should ask yourself to establish the level of crisis you’re dealing with.

Ideally you’ll have sat down to map out a plan ahead of time and have different contingency plans to work from based on the level of crisis you’re faced with. Who will be in charge of deciding which plan to go with? Who will be tapped to implement different parts of the plan? Who will tweet your responses? Does someone else need to approve those tweets before they’re shared?

Be sure you have this mapped out and agreed to, with backup persons to tap in case someone isn’t available when a crisis happens.

Most importantly, make sure everyone on the team knows where these documents are and how to access them. Consider running periodic drills so everyone has practice with these situations and feels more comfortable acting when the time comes. Also have a plan in place for holidays. Does the point person change then?

The best way to be prepared? Doing a pre-mortem

Brands often do post-mortems after a crisis to find out exactly what went wrong, how they responded and how they could have responded better every step of the way. But the best preparation you can do is a pre-mortem: As part of your crisis comms drilling, map out some potential crises and have your team deal with them according to the playbook your brand has mapped out. Go through the whole situation as if it was happening in real time, then go back and break it down.

Where did the team falter? What parts of the plan could you shore up? Even if the crisis you end up dealing with in the future is completely different in nature, your team will feel more confident and prepared to face it when the time comes.

If you don’t have the time and resources for this kind of exercise, you can always look at a crisis a competitor or someone in a related industry dealt with and base your plan on what they did well and what they could have done better. Always tailor for your brand voice, values and what you know about your audience.

Avoid a crisis with comprehensive social listening

If you have your ear to the ground- which in this case is social media- then you can catch any issues brewing before they boil over into a crisis situation.

Your brand should be tracking all mentions of itself, your competitors, any influencers you’re working with, and any branded hashtags you regularly use in addition to any campaigns you’re currently running.

Sentiment analysis can be a big boon to keeping up with the mood around your brand. If you’re seeing a general negative shift in sentiment, you can work to find the problem and fix it as soon as possible. Then you hopefully won’t have to pull out the crisis plans.

The bottom line

Think it through and be prepared as much as possible. Whatever crisis your brand eventually deals with will be minimized with enough preparation, especially when your team feels confident and prepared to take it on.


Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash