3 Concepts to Remember in a Crisis


This post was originally published on CUinsight.com.

“There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.”
~Henry Kissinger

The very definition of crisis means something unplanned. Crisis communication is the scary part of public relations and communications. It’s chaotic. You don’t know all the details. People might be scared. And others want answers.

I recently attended two sessions that have focused on crisis communication. They each focused on different aspects but there were three common concepts that seemed to keep appearing.

Response Time.

Acknowledge immediately and regularly. This is crucial. We used to have a couple of hours to respond, but not anymore. Social media has shrunk that time to 20 minutes or less. And time constraints will continue to shrink. Your organization needs to be on the proactive side of this, not the reactive. The last thing you want to happen is rumors and misinformation flooding social media and the news.

Build bridges.

Build bridges through relationships and through information.

Relationships: Hopefully you already have the bridges built to media professionals, city officials and other community leaders. Have you built those bridges to your neighbors? Your tenants? Your members? Even your competitors can step forward in a crisis.

Information: This is simply bridging information together. This works well when using social media. Here’s how it works: You post the latest information on Twitter or Facebook. Your next posts should either repeat the information (if there’s nothing new to say) or add new information to what is already known. The idea is that if the public were to scroll through your streams, they would have a good idea of what is happening, and how you are responding.

Review your plan.

Sounds like a no brainer, but when was the last time your plan was revised? Do the people listed on your crisis team still work there? Do you have templates already made up for all the scenarios? Most likely you have messaging about a weather disaster, a robbery and maybe even an internal embezzlement act. What about a possible data breach? Think of all the events that could be considered a disaster and draft talking points now.

STEM + ART go hand in hand

Art created by my 11 year old.

The focus on STEM cirriculum (science, technology, engineering and math) is big. Schools are targeting lessons around it. STEM summer camps sell out. Companies promote it. Amazon has a STEM dedicated toy shop.

I get it. We live in an “Internet of things” world, and it’s critical for students to get training in The Big Four. All are super important and the job-related outlook is definitely sunny.

But what about art?

My 11-year-old recently said “it’s not fair we have to do so much math. My favorite subject is art, and we hardly do any of it.” His fifth grade class is so busy learning math and science, there’s little room for creative subjects.

But STEM education and art can go hand in hand. Like this, as reported by NPR: Artists in Residence Give High-Tech Products a Human Touch.

Big companies like Facebook and Apple are employing artists to help them with their products. Technology has made it possible for just about anything to be made, but the roadblock is creative thinking and imagination. That’s where artists come in, because artists bring a different way of thinking.

I like this quote from John Seely Brown, who ran XEROX PARC: “The ability to imagine is the key challenge,” Brown says, “because we have infinitely powerful tools to build whatever we imagine. As a result we’re limited by our imagination. Working with artists really opens our imagination.”

The beauty of a product is just as important as what it does and how it works. STEM students can make the mobile app work, but who is going to make it look nice? STEM students can design an awesome web-based CRM platform, but it’s no good if the userface is clunky and ugly to look at. Who will design the next iPhone? And I’m not talking about how it works, I’m talking about how it looks.

Technology needs artists.

It shouldn’t be STEM curriculum OR art. It be STEM curriculum AND art.

Groupon: Social Media Superstar

banana bunker
This is social media done right. Groupon listed a “banana bunker” product on their website. It is a protective case for a banana. I’m not endorsing the product, because come on…really? Just by looking at it you can imagine the jokes that started…and Groupon replied to every one of them. They could have done nothing, or respond to a few. I don’t know how much time they spent responding to people, but their funny, casual and informative responses showed they were listening. That gets a gold star in the social media playbook.

I was at a conference this week where the speaker said Humans buy from Humans. This is an example of Humans responding to Humans. What’s more is Groupon is now sold out of this product.

To see how Groupon responded see this Adweek article or this Consumerist article. You’ll be glad you did.