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Breaking News Crisis! Avoid reputational damage in the era of instant news

Posted: Mar 2024
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Crisis communications in the era of instant news

In today's world, news travels fast. With just a few taps on our phones, we can share information with millions of people in just a matter of seconds. This can be great for spreading positive news, but it can also be a problem when things go wrong.

When a company faces a crisis, rumours and misinformation can spread quickly, causing panic and damage to their reputation. That's why it's so important for companies to have a good plan in place for communicating during a crisis. They need to be able to get their message out there quickly and clearly before things spin out of control. But with so much noise on social media, it's not always easy to be heard.

We look at effective crisis communications management in a world where news spreads almost instantly across social media platforms and we share key advice from Lawrence Dore, Founding Partner at DRD Partnership, the strategic communications consultancy specialising in crisis communications and reputation management.

First steps in crisis management

What happens when a crisis hits and what are the very first things you must address?

“In too many cases we see a crisis taking over a company and distracting too many senior managers from the day-to-day running of the business. So rapidly establishing a crisis team, agreeing on protocols, and reporting lines is key. Secondly, facts. What do we know and what do we need to know before we can respond? A hastily drafted statement or activity frequently causes more problems than it solves when new information emerges. Finally, stakeholders – who are they and are mechanisms in place to communicate with them? For example, it’s critical staff don’t learn about the crisis through the media.” This is the sound advice from Lawrence Dore, Founding Partner at DRD Partnership, who has been dubbed ‘the crisis king’.

To summarise:

  • Establish a crisis team with clearly defined roles and responsibilities
  • Gather the facts, assess the situation and decide on a course of action
  • Identify stakeholders and how you will engage with them

    Only once you’ve done these three things can you initiate communications with the relevant parties.

    The role of social media in crisis communications

    Social media has changed the game when it comes to crisis communications. This can be both good and bad. On one hand, social media allows companies to reach a vast number of people quickly and easily. On the other hand, it also means that rumours and misinformation can spread just as quickly.

    If a company doesn't have a plan in place for dealing with social media during a crisis, they risk losing control of their message. People might start to speculate and spread false information, which can make the situation worse.

    That's why it's so important for you to have a plan for how you’ll use social media during a crisis. You need to know who will be in charge of posting updates, what kind of information you’ll share, and how you’ll respond to comments and questions from the public. By being prepared, you can use social media to your advantage and keep stakeholders informed and engaged.

    We asked Lawrence for his advice on how to manage social media communications in a crisis situation. Is there any way to stop the rapid spread of news on social media, we wondered?

    “Social media has transformed the speed at which news and information spreads. A mistake, however, would be to allow the demands of social media to drive a response when the situation has not been assessed and a proper strategy is in place. Social media means teams need to move fast, work smartly and be given the access and senior management support they need to act decisively and swiftly. Good crisis preparedness training should ensure this happens and that the tools and mechanisms are in place to distribute messages and engage with all stakeholders once a strategy is ready.”

    Thanks, Lawrence. It's true that social media has completely revolutionised how news spreads, and it's crucial not to rush into action without a proper plan in place. Full training in advance and support from senior leaders when a crisis hits form the bedrock for a timely and thoughtful response.

    Effective crisis management strategies

    It's always important for companies to communicate effectively with their stakeholders but particularly so in times of crisis. The first step is to be transparent and honest in all communications. This means sharing accurate information and being upfront about what's happening. It's important to provide regular updates and information to stakeholders, such as employees, customers, and investors. This helps build trust and shows that the company is taking the situation seriously.

    Another key aspect of effective crisis communications is utilising various channels to reach different stakeholders. For example, employees might need to receive internal memos or emails, while customers might need to be alerted through social media or text messages. Investors might require more detailed information through press releases or conference calls.

    It's crucial to manage the message and control the narrative. This means being proactive in shaping the story and addressing any misinformation that may be circulating. By getting ahead of the story and providing clear, consistent messaging, companies can minimise the damage and protect their reputation. Effective crisis management isn't just about putting out fires - it's about building trust and credibility with stakeholders, even in the midst of a crisis.

    Preparation and training

    As Lawrence mentioned earlier, training is key in ensuring the correct management of a crisis. It's essential for companies to invest in training teams to handle unexpected situations effectively. This includes equipping them with the right tools and resources, such as communication plans, media relations, and social media management.

    But it doesn't stop there. Conducting regular drills and simulations is also crucial to test readiness. These exercises help identify potential gaps in their response strategy and enable them to make necessary adjustments. It's like fire drills - they may seem unnecessary until there's a real emergency, but they ensure that everyone knows what to do and can respond quickly and efficiently.

    So, remember, don't wait until it's too late – start planning and preparing today!

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    The Works Search: a search consultancy specialising in PR and corporate communications. We have unrivalled matching abilities and are known for finding the top 5% performers in the industry - the ones who deliver and make your reputation great. For more advice or market insights, do get in touch with us on 0207 903 9291 or email:

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