sometimes doing nothing is the best option

I’ve been involved with crisis communications more than once in my career. If you work in communications or public relations, it’s inevitable. But sometimes things that look like crises aren’t, and the best response to no response.

It can be hard to tell when that is the case, but using data can make it much easier.

Apply big data to new applications, including highly variable scenarios such as crisis communications. Sever months ago, a global brand found itself under attack by an online pundit, leading one of its agencies to immediately begin advocating for a full-blown response. We instead hit the pause button to see how the data played out over the next 90 minutes. Using real-time monitoring, the trend line soon indicated that the issue would run its course in a few hours—an instance where doing nothing trumped a knee-jerk reaction.

Scott Van Camp – 5 Tips to Get Started With ‘Big Data’

This assumes, of course, that your organization has the resources to collect and analyze the relevant data.

Even when a response is required, it’s important to allow yourself the time necessary to take a measured approach. Give yourself as much time as the situation will allow to decide not only if you should respond, but how.

In January 2013, Covenant Health’s Rayne Kuntz and Salima Bandali gave an excellent presentation on the importance of taking the appropriate time to plan your crisis communications before proceeding.

Covenant Health experienced a significant privacy breach when an unencrypted external back up drive, containing sensitive photos and videos of over 200 patients, went missing. Eight weeks of intense work, driven by organizational values and discernment, lead to patient notification and a news conference. The results were outstanding: patients were understanding, media presented a balanced story and staff were proud to be part of Covenant Health. They recently won an IABC Silver Leaf Award of Merit for their successful response.

IABC Edmonton – How to Communicate in a Crisis

The Prezi presentation Rayne used during the talk is available online and is definitely worth a look. It talks about the importance of planning your communications strategy even (especially!) in a crisis, as well as the importance of being honest and not trying to “spin” the situation.

The outcome of their plan was outstanding and definitely serves as a model to follow.



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