Effective Crisis and Issues Management: Tools and Best Practices for Your Business

It’s every organization’s nightmare: an issue has gone viral on social media; local news agencies are calling non-stop to ask for your statement on a faux pas caught on iPhone video.

Yes, crisis management might be intimidating, but it can turn any situation around when done right. We talked to Kim McKeeman, CEO of McKeeman Communications, a PR firm serving Charlotte, North Carolina, and she shared crisis management best practices that you can apply to your business.

Q: How has social media changed the way brands communicate with their customers?

Kim: According to a Nielsen report, 53 percent of adults follow brands online while 60 percent of social media users write reviews. While brands still have the last say on what information they intentionally share online, they no longer have control over the conversations that happen around their products and services. The power has shifted from brands to consumers, who now have the unprecedented freedom to express their opinions online.

As they say, good news travels slowly, while bad news has wings; this holds true now more than ever. News of food contamination, product tampering, poor sanitation, safety violations, or uncalled for behavior can spread like wildfire and must be addressed in a timely manner.

Q: Can a crisis be prevented?

Kim: An 80/20 rule exists for crisis management. While most crises are difficult to anticipate, the reality is that at least 80 percent of crises are preventable; the remaining 20 percent can be attributed to human error.

Yes, you can avoid a crisis from happening with the following steps:

  1. Encourage your organization to embrace a problem-solving mindset. Address issues from the get-go, no matter how minor these could be.
  2. Make sure your employees live and breathe your core values. This will shape their work ethic and guide their behavior both online and offline.
  3.  Empower your team to respond. Equip them with the information they need to directly respond to customers.
  4.  Get to the root cause of recurring issues. While these have not led to major headaches now, they might be tomorrow’s headlines. Avoid band-aid solutions and resolve them for good. Engage the entire team by going “once around the table” and asking “why” at least five times. This exercise will help you get to the heart of the matter.
  5.  Map out an action plan. Outline the overall internal and external communications strategy. Establish clear guidelines in terms of tone of voice and designate specific responsibilities for each member of the team.

Q: What’s the best way to manage a crisis if it does happen?

Kim: Start by selecting the best platform(s) to communicate with your audience. Act fast. Research has shown that the speed of your reaction can mitigate or further escalate a crisis situation. Assess the gravity of the situation and reach out to those directly affected by it first. Showing that you care goes a long way; provide well carefully considered and empathic responses to questions, requests, or complaints. Demonstrate your commitment to resolving the situation at hand.

Consider working with a specialist to prepare, identify, and deal with highly sensitive situations should there be any.

I hope you never have a need for crisis management! But, if you find yourself in that situation, these best practices will definitely keep you ahead of the game.

PR firms in Charlotte, NC like McKeeman Communications can help you craft a crisis management plan that meets your needs. We believe the right communication can solve any problem. Reach out and we’ll be delighted to help.

If you’re looking for PR firms in Charlotte, NC, McKeeman Communications is in the business of building brands and reputations. Whether you’re battling poor social media reviews or you can’t seem to get the right kind of interest from reporters, do get in touch with us – we live for these challenges. Call (866) 341-2650 or email info@mckeemanpr.com


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