This guest post is by Jeff Domansky of The PR Coach.
Your blog is a very important part of your personal image or company brand. While you’ve invested time in its development, have you ever thought about how you could use your blog to manage a crisis?
A blog offers several advantages compared to news releases, websites, or other social media channels.
It lets you control your message without a media filter. It speaks with authority as your “voice of record.” In a crisis, your blog can be a valuable internal and external communications tool. And, most importantly, with quick action, it can help ensure you’re heard accurately in a crisis.
Ten ways to blog in a crisis
Here are ten valuable ways you can use your blog to help manage a crisis:
1. Quick response
Issue your holding statement and/or first “official” response to a crisis as soon as possible on your blog. This prevents a vacuum being filled by the messages of your critics, competitors, or opponents. Deal with the most obvious concerns. Be proactive. Provide facts. Reassure the community that you’re actively working on the issue and that safety is paramount.
Scott Monty shows how SeaWorld used its blog effectively in the tragic death of an employee by one of its Killer Whales.
3. Voice of record
Use your blog as your company’s voice when you can’t reach everyone more easily in other ways. A fire or other emergency may prevent you from accessing your email system, your office fax, or communications equipment. In that situation, your blog may be your only available communications channel.
GE recently tried to use Twitter to defend itself from media attacks around a tax issue. It didn’t work. 140 characters wasn’t enough. Using the GE blog would have been more effective for such a complicated defense. Ultimately, GE has quit trying to “spin” its story after a poor media relations effort.
Quick, timely updates through your blog can be invaluable in keeping employees, customers, regulators, fire and safety officials, the media, and the general public informed of new developments. Remember, your updates can be very brief and factual. Most crisis managers know it’s important to show that even if you have not yet resolved the crisis, you’re working to solve it.
BP attempted to use a blog for Gulf oil spill cleanup updates, but received pointed criticism for its attempts to paint the recovery unrealistically. BP since shuttered this blog and removed the posts, demonstrating how transparent and objective you must be for success.
Your blog is critical in correcting mistakes, responding to misinformation, and making sure that audiences have the correct information. Move quickly to correct factual errors, but don’t sweat the small stuff.
Chrysler’s Ed Garsten used his corporate blog to go on the record effectively with facts about firing a consultant for dropping the F-bomb in a corporate tweet.
5. Leverage internal resources
In a crisis, employees are your most valuable resource. Encourage employees to view your blog. Suggest they provide links to the blog to their key contacts. It informs employees, controls their messages and helps them respond to family, community, customer and other concerns with accurate information.
6. Media relations
In the heat of a crisis, it may be difficult to reach media. Your blog can provide critical media information as well as links to press releases, fact sheets, FAQs, photos, video, and everything else a reporter needs if they can’t reach a spokesperson. Make sure your blog address and 24-hour phone contacts are provided on all media information.
7. Support with the “basics”
Use your blog to provide advice, direction, and basic information such as phone numbers and addresses for company, fire, and safety contacts, and community organizations. Provide all employees with key information including the blog address. Add a recorded message to your answering service to ensure that information on your blog is available after hours. This will help ease pressure, reduce inbound calls and show concern while your team deals with the crisis.
Remember, much of this information can be prepared in advance before you have a crisis.
8. Enrich and personalize response
Your blog is a great vehicle for visuals, multimedia, links and many additional voices that allow richer, more effective, more human response by your organization. Be creative. If time allows, make use of all of the social media advantages in blogging.
No surprise that Disney Parks Blog is one of the best, taking visitors behind the scenes with wonderful storytelling.
Careful use of keywords in your post titles and content helps you rank higher in search engines and news aggregators, allowing you to compete for a fair and balanced share of voice in the crisis coverage.
Companies often forget to do a wrap-up after a crisis has been handled. The community, your customers, employees, officials, regulatory agencies, media, and the public all need to know that you handled the crisis well. They need to be reassured that they are safe, and that they can trust you to do the right things now and in the future.
Discovery Channel did this very effectively after their hostage crisis in 2010.
Don’t forget to do advance planning so your blog can be used off-site in the event of a fire or other emergency that prevents the use of your office. Build your mailing list of VIPs, media, employees, and customers with smart, useful content. In a crisis, make sure to alert your readers with the blog address using Twitter updates when speed is critical.
By following these ten steps, your real-time blogging can play a vital role in helping you prepare for, respond to, and manage a crisis. You’ll earn respect for openly communicating and definitely establish trust for the future.
Remember: one-size social media does not fit every situation. Anticipate, plan for the worst crisis you can imagine, and blog for the best.
Have you had success blogging in a crisis? What were your biggest challenges? I’d enjoy hearing from you.