“Everyone has a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.” —Mike Tyson

Several recent media stories have heightened awareness and brand responses to public events that challenge an organization’s image and reputation. Think of the Massachusetts General Hospital revelation about medication error rate during surgery. Or this prescription drug pricing controversy. No wonder crisis communications are capturing more time in marketing planning meetings—for healthcare organizations and beyond.

Faced with a crisis, what’s your response strategy? A plan is a best practice place to start. But in today’s omnipresent news cycle, you also want to cultivate consistent messaging, multi-communicant verticals and train employees on critical response issues.

Planning for Crisis

Why do it? Crisis communication can be employed for strategic purposes to keep sentiment positive and for a business to tell their side of the story. A well-executed plan can also keep media, clients and business partners up-to-date with the latest information and rise quickly in social media and organic search.

The question of how to more effectively facilitate and implement the plan is often the challenge facing healthcare organizations. After all, how a business responds when there is heightened awareness can mean the difference in moving that awareness for positive sentiment. The latest research shows a positive correlation between positive public sentiment and sales revenue.

What it Entails

The key to any strategy is having a plan before the problem hits and then executing that plan. Comprehensive tactics include marketing, public relations and company leadership working together to provide a unified message that is actually seen by people in the community. An effective crisis communications plan involves a strategy that combines these tactics to craft a response to a potential problem.

Where it Occurs

Eighty percent of crisis communications will now happen online.  The latest research shows a strong correlation and public response to the initial messages that are received by the public. Planning and deploying those initial messages can be a key to successful containment and getting important information to online influencers.

Not all Communication is Crisis

What happens before and after a crisis? Integrating viral videos, photographs, and  positive reviews into existing social media calendars and internal employee communication is critical to shaping public perception and engagement. Communicating and amplifying that—both internally with employees and company stakeholders and externally with customers—can result in increased share of voice and long-term revenues from existing customers.

Brand Advocates

Loyal customers and brand advocates can be powerful during a time of increased consumer awareness—whether it’s positive or negative news. Prime your advocates for action by creating consistent, insightful and powerful messages. Brand advocates will step forward and block some of the “trolls” and “herd” mentality that can dominate digital communications. Oftentimes advocates will come to your defense in real-time and can lead the conversation back into a discussion or neutral sentiment.  Brand advocates can also direct your message to influencers and decision makers, resulting in more press, positive sentiment and increasing the digital and organic message of your brand. This is why building a social media “audience” you engage with, as opposed to a “following,” is important for ongoing long-term communication.

Key Tactics in Your Communication Plan

Now may be the time to update your crisis communication plan and incorporate paid, earned and owned messages into your overall communication strategy. Here are four things to consider:

  1. Who will lead the communication? Determine roles and content strategy. The voice and tone of the message can be just as important for positive sentiment as the actual message.
  1. Consistency in messaging across all platforms. Make sure your brand communicates a consistent message that also fits the medium. For example:  Twitter is best for real-time communication and has a lifespan of 18 minutes.
  1. Incorporate video, photos, press releases and status updates into the plan. Social media is most valuable and has the highest ROI with real-time engagement and the ability to take conversations offline.
  1. Marketing, communications and public relations need to work together for a consistent message that allows for engagement, monitoring and feedback.

What are you doing well right now? How can you improve? Contact us for an evaluation or conversation about your organization’s plan—before the next crisis hits.