Four Mistakes In Your Crisis Communications Plan

*Spoiler Alert*: This post contains spoilers from Spider-Man: Far From Home

Let’s say you’re Spider-Man. You just got done saving the world from Mysterio when that jerk releases your secret identity to the world. Sounds like a crisis for Peter Parker, amirite? While MCU fans will have to wait a couple years to find out how the web-slinger responds, you shouldn’t hesitate to start planning your own crisis communications plans. Hopefully evil, power-hungry maniacs aren’t going to set you up, but there are a myriad of other situations that could happen to your company at any given moment. Today we’re going to dive into a couple common mistakes when it comes to crisis communication plans and how to avoid them, should you need to avenge your company’s reputation.

Thinking you’ve planned for it all.
When you traditionally think of a crisis communication plan, you imagine sitting down to think of every worst-case scenario. That method is no longer applicable in a digital age, and the truth is that those situations are hard to predict. Thinking of things that could go wrong is a first step, but it shouldn’t be the last. “If This, Then This” statements are an important part of the process, but they can no longer stand alone. The ITTT statements need to be specific, actionable, and flexible. A data breach or e-mail hack is a very different type of crisis than say an oil spill or a loss-of-life situation. By knowing that you can’t predict the future, you can develop a plan to respond to decisions that need to be made, not situations that have arisen.

Not identifying a clear point person.
It used to be that when a crisis hit, you had a little bit more leeway time to meet together, draft a statement, and then respond. Now, thanks to social media and the 24/7 news cycle, a delayed response can almost do as much damage as whatever the incident is that you need to address. In order to make sure your team is prepared, identify ahead of time who can approve statements, tweets, and make decisions. In the middle of a crisis, the CEO might not be available to sign off on the statement you’re posting to your social media accounts, but if it’s decided in advance that someone else can make that call, you’re saving valuable time down the road.

Ignoring social media.
This brings us to our next point: Ignoring your social media accounts in a crisis is a common mistake that is easily avoidable. No matter your industry or your company size, any sort of crisis is likely to play out in one way or another on social media, as social media channels have evolved into trusted sources of information. This can be key if you feel as though your message isn’t being framed correctly in traditional media. Social media allows for fast, interactive communications that are directly stating your positions. Have a plan in place for who can draft, approve, and send tweets. Then have backups for your backups, in case every community manager’s worst nightmare comes true and a crisis happens while they’re on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean.

Ignoring your employees.
When you’re trying to put out a figurative fire that’s surrounding the building, it’s important to remember the people inside. Don’t just share your statements/talking points with your C-Suite. Have a plan for dispersing key messaging and important contact information company wide. As part of your planning process, alert all employees to the crisis procedure so they know when and if to wait for further instructions in the moment. Make sure every single person, no matter if they’re the intern or the head of accounting, has a copy of your responses to media and information on where to direct inquiries. That way should a reporter get ahold of the accounts payable department, those employees will know who to pass them off to and be confident in what they can or can’t say.

No one wants to wake up and find your company’s name in headlines, just like no one wants to find out that their secret identity has been leaked to the Daily Bugle. However, should that situation occur, keeping your crisis communications plan updated will at least make the road a little less bumpy, if not entirely smooth.

Tips For Tackling Social Issues Using a Brand Purpose

According to a recent study, 69% of U.S. adults use at least one social media site. That’s a hefty portion of the population, making social media a powerful tool for marketing, sales, and advertising. It also makes it a powerful tool to advocate for social causes or bring attention to social issues. This can be tricky territory for a company profile, as brands often don’t want to offend or scare off consumers that may have different viewpoints. And this is a real risk. We’ve seen it often enough with calls to boycott Starbucks or boycott Nike that smaller companies may not be willing to exact that risk. However, with risk there is reward and today we’re going to dive into how exactly to approach integrating social issues into your social media marketing efforts.

Consumer Value Marketing
One point that we’ll keep coming back to today is the idea that the strongest connection you can make with an audience is over a shared value. When thinking about this in terms of your consumer, using social issues can be a way to build brand equity. By listening to your consumer, you can find out what causes they care about. This can be done through social listening, i.e., asking questions on your social media channels, hosting Q&As, creating focus groups, etc.

Once you know what your consumers are concerned about, ask yourself how you can emotionally connect with them. How can you align your brand with values that matter to your customer base? Once you’ve determined where to focus your attention, your consumers will follow along since they’re the ones that guided you on how to get there. By reaching your consumers where they already are, you’re making it one step easier for them to engage with your message and build a foundation of trust.

Company Value Marketing
The second method to issue-related marketing is one that is bolder and more aggressive. As previously mentioned, the strongest connection a company (or anyone) can make with their audience is over a shared value. Instead of asking your consumers for their input on what they value, companies can also decide for themselves what their values are and trust fans to meet them there.

The first step in this process is often to ask, “what do we, as a company, believe” and then go from there. This often looks like revisiting a mission statement or a company value list to see where internal beliefs reflect external issues. If your company is dedicated to accepting and embracing diversity in the workplace, then your company should speak out on issues related to diversity. But rather than arbitrarily speaking out, create campaigns and awareness around what types of changes you would like to see. Research bills or laws that are in development. Partner with organizations that also care about the same issues. By giving your audience action items they can take, it not only creates a bond over a shared value but also cultivates the chance for change.

Mitigating the Risk
In either of these approaches, brands run the risk of alienating consumers. It’s the name of the game and will often make higher-ups nervous. However, there are a couple ways that you can prep internally before speaking out to make sure that the roll out of these campaigns are successful and smooth.

  • No Response is a response.
    • Look, we all know what a troll looks like on social media. If community managers spent their days responding to every single person just looking to stir the pot, we’d never get any other work done. If you know that your platform is solid and the call to action is legitimate, there’s not always a need to respond. Letting your values speak for themselves allows you to continue to take the high road as opposed to responding to every unhappy Tweet.
  • Let your fans defend for you. 
    • In most cases, it’s not even necessary for you to defend yourself. If you are creating awareness around an issue that incites controversy, allow your audience that does stand with your core value to do the work for you. They’ll often times show up in better ways than you can.
  • If this, then this.
    • Plan ahead with your team. Create IFTTT statements from all those that might be needed (CEO, CFO, VP, etc.) ahead of time so that if a media outlet requests a comment you already have it ready to go. Set up internal communication plans for every possible situation. If there’s an overall positive reaction, go with Plan A. If there’s an overall negative reaction, go with Plan B. By thinking through all the possible outcomes before you launch, your team can rest easy knowing they’re ready to handle anything.


At the end of the day, getting involved with social issues on social media will not please everyone. However, a recent study shows that millennials are more receptive to cause marketing than previous generations and are more likely to buy items associated with a cause. They also expect companies to support the social issues and causes they care about and will reward them for doing so. And with millennials now eclipsing the size of the baby boomer generation and becoming the largest in America, they are not a demographic to ignore.

If you’re interested in assistance with social media strategy or management, contact Lauryn Gray to learn more about our services and schedule a consultation.

How to Make the Most of Client Onboarding

When you’re living the agency life, clients are a pretty big part of the deal. As in, the biggest part. Our blog is full of useful content detailing how to get the most coverage for your clients, how to leverage that coverage on and off of social media, and dozens of other topics related to client success. But today, we’re going to back it all the way up to the beginning and talk about client onboarding.

“Onboarding” a client is a term used when your business development team (in our case, the fabulous Lauryn Gray) has sealed the deal, signed the paperwork, and is handing a client relationship over to the dedicated account team. This is the chance for the PR pros that will be working with the client each day to kick off the relationship and get the ball rolling.

In order to build a successful partnership, it’s important to gather as much information as possible in the first few weeks to help the PR team set a strong strategy. Here are a few things to keep in mind when going through the onboarding process with your next client!

Start with the obvious.
It may seem like a no brainer, but the first step should be to sit down with the business development group and go over what they already know about your new client. A lot of times, the sales process can take several weeks or even months, so the representative from your company has probably gotten to know the client team pretty well. Not only will you gain the tactical insight, like what all is covered in the proposed scope of work, but you can find out some information that might be helpful in establishing the relationship. Things like if they mentioned a competitor or an ideal publication, for example, can be great for developing a tactical strategy. Other insight, such as an alma mater or favorite sports team, might help develop a personal connection.

Do the research.
If you feel like this tip appears in a lot of our blog posts, that’s because it does. We love research. When it comes to onboarding, we like to know as much as we can about a company before we ever walk into the meeting. Start, of course, with the company’s history, its products, its C-suite, and all the basic information found on their website. But diving even deeper into figuring out who their competitors are, what industry trade media publications they have been featured in, where those competitors have been featured, the latest industry announcements, any awards they have won (or been nominated for), and what type of engagement they receive on social media presence will result in a much more efficient introductory meeting.

Ask all the questions.
Once you’ve done all that research and you’ve become familiar with the scope of work, it’s time to prep for your onboarding meeting. In order to really make the most out of the time you have, it’s important to utilize what you already know. Rather than asking them to list off their competitors, have the list you’ve created ready and ask if you’re missing anyone. Rather than asking them to list off every publication they have been featured in before, ask for the top 3 they haven’t been in yet. Have a list of their products or services at the ready and ask which ones should take highest priority, as opposed to having them walk through information that’s readily available on their website. Not only does this show that you’ve done your homework, it makes it easier to hit the ground running once this meeting concludes. The faster you can start executing on project initiatives, the faster you can provide those stellar results your client wants.

Onboarding a client can be a little overwhelming at times. It’s hard to know every single component of a company after a single two-hour meeting. But being prepared can help you maximize the impact of that two-hour meeting and set a solid foundation for a successful client-agency relationship.