A Beginner’s Guide to Crisis Management Marketing

We don’t wish a public relations crisis on anyone, but they happen—all the time.

We’ve all heard the horror stories. From ill-timed typos to poorly worded press releases and unintentionally suggestive imagery, businesses of all sizes and stripes run into crises each and every day.

And it’s not the lucky ones that can weather a crisis and come out the other side stronger. It’s the prepared ones.

Though you won’t need to use it often (hopefully!), you should always keep crisis management marketing in your business’s marketing toolbox. If you’re unfamiliar with crisis management marketing, today is a good enough day to change that.

What is crisis management?

Simply put, crisis management involves the work you put into shaping public perceptions about a person or company in the event of a crisis. You may not be able to control what people are saying about you in the news or on social media, but you can control the messages you put out.

If you think of crisis management marketing along the lines of public relations or reputation management, your head’s in the right place.

Planning for a Crisis

If your organization doesn’t have the funds to hire a crisis team, it may fall on the marketing, PR, or other media-related positions. So that means having a plan in place, as well as the spokesperson or people to communicate that plan.

You can benefit from answering the following questions:

  • How will you manage the communications process? Is it best to have everyone in a single room (or Zoom room), or will a daily meeting or call suffice?
  • What is the overarching goal you have when dealing with any crisis?
  • What are the stakeholders you have to consider should a crisis arise? Which assurances are important to each? For example, how would you communicate this differently to your customers than to your employees?

Other questions may not arise until a crisis strikes:

  • What are the common questions you may be asked in relation to this crisis?
  • What is your position relating to this crisis? What is the key takeaway or message you want to communicate?
  • How will you define success in your response?

Monitoring Your Online Reputation

Monitoring your online reputation in the event of a crisis is important. Fortunately, you have some free (and paid) methods available to do that. If budget is a concern, you can try the following methods to monitor the conversation around your crisis, product, or business:

  • Google alerts: Sends updates straight to your inbox when a specific term is mentioned in an article.
  • Twitter search: Allows you to see recent or top mentions of a term. Allows you to check in on the live conversations happening.
  • Reddit search: Same results as Twitter, but can and often do link to additional research and conversation that may give additional insights.
  • Yelp (and other review sites): Gives you another measure by which to see how people are engaging with your business—and airing their grievances and experiences.

While there are plenty of ways to monitor the conversation and news relating to your product or brand, they certainly can leave some gaps.

Fortunately, some of the tools you may already be using can come in clutch here. Did you know many social media tools offer listening and monitoring features? It’s true!

For example, social publishing tools such as Sprout Social have listening tools that track message volume and tools related to your desired term or terms. Not only can they provide the overall sentiment, but they can help you find the other related conversations happening adjacent to your crisis that may help inform your team’s response.

Identifying a Crisis

What defines a “crisis,” you may ask? It all depends on you. For some people, a crisis might mean a botched product launch or an unfortunate double entendre in a tweet. For others, it could mean a bitter ex-employee, investigation, and might even involve legal consequences.

Not everything warrants pulling out your crisis management marketing handbook. But in the world of crisis response, the following questions are nearly always useful:

  • Does this warrant my direct supervisor’s attention? What about their supervisor’s?
  • If this escalates, will I regret not giving our team more advanced warning?

The Golden Rule of Crisis Management

The channels you use to respond to a crisis, and the messaging you use, should be guided by your crisis response plan. But you should always look to respond proactively.

Gone are the days when you could wait until the weekend to send your press release addressing the going concerns. Since messages spread so quickly, it’s good to get yours out promptly, too. That doesn’t mean rushed. But that does mean helping to help shape the discussion before it’s spiraled into a different conversation entirely.  

Taking Your Crisis Management Marketing to the Next Level

When brand emergencies arise, you should deal with them swiftly, earnestly, and comprehensively. By developing a good crisis management marketing plan and putting it into motion, you can weather some of the worst storms your organization will ever face and come out on the other side stronger and more resilient than ever. The power of good marketing never ceases to amaze us, either.

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