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The 10 New Rules of Crisis Communications

19 Mar

rules-of-crisis-communicationsIt’s common knowledge: Social media and the way individuals use the Internet has changed the rules of the game when it comes to crisis management.

It’s no longer about communicating your message to the public but rather communicating your message with your audience, in real-time and with wide-open eyes and ears. The eyes are for monitoring and the ears are for listening. Little Red Riding Hood’s big bad wolf had big ears and big eyes and you’d better plan for your brand to have the same in a crisis. Otherwise, you’ll be faced with the public huffing and puffing and blowing your brand’s reputation right out of the water – or search results if you’d rather. (Or were those the three little pigs?)

So, if you’re new to the new rules of crisis communications, here’s a cheat-sheet of sorts, in an attempt to keep the underprepared on the right path:

The 10 new rules of crisis communications

  1. Communications are now a 2-way street, whether you want them to be or not.
  2. Real-time is not just a suggestion but an expectation of your audience. An expectation that will not turn in your favor if unmet.
  3. Informative is the only way. If you’re not informative somebody else will be – on their own channels that you have zero control over.
  4. Listen, listen, listen! Listen to what others are saying, what they’re not saying and where they are and are not saying it.
  5. When you combine real-time and 2-way you get responsive. Your audience will be responsive and so must you.
  6. Sincerity, honesty and apologies go a long way. But remember: actions speak so much louder than words
  7. Humans dealing with humans. Your brand may be a brand, but it is run by humans communicating with other humans. Act like it.
  8. Adaptability and flexibility are highly recommended. Adapt your crisis communications for different platforms and audiences that you need to communicate your messages with and on.
  9. Twitter-friendly communications are your friend. For every update, response and statement you release, have a Twitter version (and check out this cool tool)
  10. Communicate with your staff throughout the entire crisis. Internal communications are key to today’s successful crisis management.

These 10 rules are just the beginning, though a very good place to start. The sooner you get acquainted with the new rules of crisis communications, the sooner you can feel confident that, in the event that a crisis unfolds, you and your entire staff will be prepared to protect your brand’s reputation for the long-term.

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7 Responses to “The 10 New Rules of Crisis Communications”

  1. Ella Minty March 19, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Absolutely spot on, Melissa!

    Hard to shift "I speak – you listen" mentality and, actually, truly ENGAGE!


    • Melissa Agnes March 19, 2013 at 11:55 am #

      It is very hard for many, Ella, you're right. With time it will become easier, I suppose. My hope is that articles and posts such as these really drill-in the necessity of it all.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave me your thoughts, Ella!


  2. Colin Robbins March 19, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    I think this is particulary interesting in the field of cyber security, where the debate seems to be about wether to disclose, rather than about the most effective way to communicate the issue and take control of the customer relationship.

  3. Davina K. Brewer March 19, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    As you say Melissa, these are just the start. Big thing about social is the ‘whether you want it or not.’ People are going to talk, write, blog about your brand – period; won’t matter how many times you say ‘this isn’t a customer service channel,’ people are still going to tweet and FB their problems at you. Better figure out a game plan.

    One thing I’ve got to add – before even rule 1 – the old rules still apply. You can’t ignore social and RT, the changing infotainment nature of ‘news’ these days. But you also cannot give into it, forget the basics. Don’t let social make things go pear shaped, blow a minor incident out of proportion, or let some random post become a full-blown crisis. Balance, due consideration in all things. Many of these rules speak to being proactive in managing a crisis; so w/ social too you manage it, don’t let it manage you. FWIW.

  4. Melissa Agnes March 19, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    Excellent addition, Davina! The basic rules always apply. It's the tools and the communications rules that have progressed.

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave us your thoughts :)


  1. PR Crisis Management | PR & Communications - March 20, 2013

    […] For basic PR crisis management tips, see “PR Crisis Management: 3 Things You Must Do” and “5 Steps for Managing a PR Crisis“. Also see this article in the New York Times: “In Case of Emergency, What Not To Do“. And see “The 10 New Rules for Crisis Communications“. […]

  2. The big picture – what is it anyways! « Employee Communications Specialist - April 1, 2013

    […] The 10 New Rules of Crisis Communications ( […]

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