(Part 4 of 4)
Think of Unthinkable News
Let’s say the unthinkable happens. You walk into your office, just like any other day, flip on your computer and begin to check your favorite news sources. You notice your brand logo on the front page of CNN.com and your heart drops. Flipping through the story, you can tell facts of the story are baseless and that the story is clearly untrue. The fortune 500 brand you work for has been thrown into a fake news crisis. What do you do?
Here is where you can start:
- Lean on your brand trust that we discussed in the last blog. If you’re actively building trust, and meaningful relationships, with your stakeholders this will be just like any other crisis. They may even go to bat for you and defend your brand. That’s how valuable building relationships through PR programs can be.
- Craft a strong, unified response to the crisis at hand. Not responding isn’t an option. This is especially true in a situation with a large brand that has a lot of sales revenue at stake. Make sure your entire team is on board and ready to strike with a unified message. Likely, many communications teams, as well as leadership, will be involved in this discussion. Be sure that everyone knows their responsibilities and the unified message that will be pushed. Let’s remember that we are communication professionals. Our responses should be measured, timely, and accurate. Don’t rush into a response and make the situation worse.
- Plan to respond. This is probably the most important step in all of this, but often is over looked by seasoned PR professionals. To keep the situation from spiraling out of control – plan to respond fast. In the world of fake news, news travels very fast. And in many cases, going viral is a real possibility and in some rare cases…. inventible. Don’t risk going viral for the wrong reason just because you can’t craft your statement fast enough.
- Use your crisis communications plan! Like I said before, this is like any other crisis. You do countless hours of crisis prep just to prepare for this moment. Reach into that PR tool bag and be strategic with your messaging. Being timely, responsive, truthful, and open are musts during this process.
- Capitalize on the website traffic. Sounds weird, right? But nine times out of 10, in a situation like this, your website is going to be flooded with traffic. Creating a simple call to action may catch the attention of those who are visiting your websites, for good or worse, so why not capitalize on it? Whatever the mission of your organization there is certainly a way to monetize something like this. Feel free to get creative, too, depending on the seriousness of the situation.
- Look at it from all angles! Media coverage, message pull through, website traffic, share of voice from competitors during crisis, audience surveys on brand image – the list is endless. Be sure to think about your overall business objectives and how this communications crisis has effected the overall bottom line. Your image isn’t the only thing to take a hit, keeping tabs on business metrics is paramount during this process.
Is your organization prepared to handle a fake news crisis or a crisis in general? If not, these six simple tips are a starting point. Be assured that crisis communications plans are extensive, but having one in place is a must.
We hope this short series of blogs has been helpful in preparation for something we hope you never have to deal with. While the threat of fake news and misinformation isn’t going away, the nervousness around fake news can be put at ease by simply thinking like a communicator.
Please feel free to visit our website and see how we can help you prepare for crisis situations. Whether measuring the favorability of your brand in the media or keeping a pulse on your media footprint, we are here to help.
As always, feel free to tweet me at @AustinOmaha or @Universal_Info to continue the conversation about fake news.
Austin Gaule is the PR Measurement Director at Universal Information Services