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If you are or have been a parent of young kids, you’re likely all too familiar with the daily task of prepping the “backup bag” every time you leave the house. Extra pants, extra shirts, extra underwear, an assortment of snacks… the whole nine yards. Of course, you rarely need it and wonder why you’ve lugged 20 lbs of clothing and food around with you all day. But when it’s needed, you feel like the smartest person in the world and a real-life hero.
In this edition of The Feed, we’re drawing inspo from parent preppers – and taking lessons on how organizations can be prepared for when things don’t go according to plan.
When building a brand from the ground up, there seem to be countless ways things can go awry. Whether you’re launching a new public-facing initiative or activation, or if you’re just plugging along and some unexpected news hits, it’s essential to take the time to prepare a contingency communications plan to make sure you’re not caught off guard. If it’s a product launch, a news release, or an issue within your industry, it’s important to take stock of existing or possible controversies so you can evaluate and react quickly, effectively and responsibly.
Take a look at the conversations going on in your industry and the general climate. While monitoring industry news and sentiment should always be a key part of your communications playbook, it’s especially important to check in on it before you release news out into the world. Evaluate if there are any touchy or controversial subjects that have the potential to be included in your narrative. If so, list them out, calculate their potential impact on your organization and sketch out the possible ways to navigate through them.
Craft A Contingency Plan
Write your contingency plan and any statements you think you may need based on your evaluation. While these may need to be modified according to the situation at hand, having language at the ready that your team is comfortable with makes the response process easier and faster.
As part of your contingency plan, specify who needs to be informed should anything arise, and who is responsible for which action items. This way, you have a chain of command and process in place so that if something comes up, it’s easier to stay organized, focused and on track.
Another thing to include is recommended steps to take based on how a situation progresses. A negative comment on social media requires a different approach from a negative press piece. A product that misses the mark could spark its own fast-moving conversation. Creating general alignment on steps to take if things escalate will help to keep emotions in check.
There’s a difference between a stained shirt and soaking wet pants. It’s important to take a measured approach when seeing feedback that skews negative or against your organization.
Take a moment and monitor the situation to evaluate what type of response is warranted. It’s hard to hear anything that could be construed as negative against your company, but be smart about how and when you respond.
Sometimes engaging in a dialogue can actually make a very minor issue bigger because anything you say will give more air to the conversation. Other times, you will need to step in.
If you’ve determined you need to step in, acknowledge the issue as soon as possible to take control of the situation.
You don’t need to have the solution or language available to issue an apology or statement until you are fully briefed on all the surrounding circumstances, but a general statement acknowledging something is a concern and that you are looking into it is a good way to let your customers know that you are aware and on top of addressing the issue.
When you do issue your statement or response, make sure it is genuine. If you made a mistake, acknowledge it directly. Share how you are taking steps to address the issue. Always be clear, simple and concise. Vague statements will leave more questions than answers, and your goal in responding is to regain control of the narrative, and when appropriate, reassure your customers.
Here’s an example – last February, Slack went down for about 5 hours due to a technical glitch. Employees around the world immediately panicked and Slack was bombarded with complaints, news articles, Reddit threads and social conversations. Slack prides itself on stability and reliability which is why so many organizations around the world (including Robin) rely on it for collaboration. The company acknowledged the issue, kept users updated on progress and detailed some of the errors they made. They fixed the problem and apologized. And we’ve all moved on.
The key takeaways? Transparency and sincerity – Slack’s customers may have been annoyed by the outage, but because the company shared updates along the way, customers knew they were working on fixing the issue as soon as possible and Slack was able to manage the fallout.
In general, the hope is these plans won’t be needed, but in the event something does come up, your future self will thank you for planning ahead.
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