A blog is an important part of a company's brand.
Though you've invested time in the blog's development, have you ever considered using it to manage a crisis?
A blog offers several advantages over news releases, websites or other social media channels:
- You can control your message without a media filter.
- A blog speaks with authority as your "voice of record."
- A blog ensures that your message is accurate and in your own words.
Here are 10 valuable ways to use your blog to help manage a crisis:
1. Quick response
Issue your holding statement and/or first "official" response to a crisis as soon as possible on your blog. This prevents the filling of the vacuum with the messages of your critics, competitors or opponents.
Deal with the most obvious concerns. Be proactive. Provide facts. Reassure the community that you're actively working on the issue and that safety is paramount.
Scott Monty details how SeaWorld used its blog effectively in the tragic death of an employee by one of its killer whales.
2. Voice of record
Use your blog as your company's voice when you can't reach employees in other ways.
A fire or other emergency may prevent you from accessing your email system, office fax or communication equipment. In these situations, your blog may be your only available communication channel.
GE recently tried to use Twitter to defend itself from media attacks around a tax issue. It didn't work; 140 characters wasn't enough. Using the GE blog would have been more effective for such a complicated defense. Ultimately, GE quit trying to "spin" its story after a poor media relations effort.
Quick, timely updates through your blog can be invaluable in keeping employees, customers, regulators, fire and safety officials, the media and the public informed of developments. Remember, your updates can be very brief and factual. It's important to show that even if you have not yet resolved the crisis, you're working to solve it.
BP attempted to use a blog for Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup updates, but it received pointed criticism for its attempts to paint the recovery unrealistically. BP has since shuttered this blog and removed the posts, demonstrating how transparent and objective you must be for success.
Your blog is crucial in correcting mistakes, responding to misinformation and making sure that audiences have the correct information. Move quickly to fix factual errors, but don't sweat the small stuff.
Chrysler's Ed Garsten used his corporate blog to go on the record effectively with facts about firing a consultant for dropping the F-bomb in a corporate tweet.
5. Leveraging internal resources
In a crisis, employees are your most valuable resource. Encourage employees to view your blog, and suggest that they provide their key contacts links to the blog. The blog can inform employees, control their messages and help them deliver accurate information in response to family, community, customers' and others' concerns.
Whole Foods Market's blog, Whole Story, has a series of food safety posts that show its care and commitment to safe, healthy foods.
6. Media relations
It may be difficult to reach media outlets in the heat of a crisis. Your blog can provide essential media information as well as links to press releases, fact sheets, FAQs, photos, video and everything else reporters might need if they can't reach a spokesperson. Make sure to provide your blog address and 24-hour phone contacts.
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark's blog, craigconnects, has a simple press page that works well.
7. Support with the basics
Use your blog to provide advice, direction and basic information such as phone numbers and addresses for the company; fire and safety contacts; and community organizations.
Provide key information, including the blog address, to all employees.
Add a recorded message to your answering service to ensure that information on your blog is available after hours. This will help ease pressure, reduce inbound calls and show concern while your team deals with the crisis.
Remember, much of this information can be prepared before a crisis occurs.
8. Enrich and personalize response
Your blog is a great vehicle for visuals, multimedia, links and many additional voices that allow richer, more effective responses by your organization.
Be creative. If time allows, make use of all of the social media advantages in blogging.
No surprise that Disney Parks Blog is one of the best, taking visitors behind the scenes with wonderful storytelling.
9. Search engine optimization (SEO)
Careful use of keywords in your post titles and content helps you rank higher on search engines and news aggregators, helping you to compete for a significant share of voice in the crisis coverage.
Companies often neglect to do a wrap-up after handling a crisis.
The community, your customers, your employees, public officials, regulatory agencies, media and the public all need to know that you handled the crisis well. They need to be reassured that they are safe and that they can trust you to do the right things now and in the future.
Discovery Channel did this very effectively after its hostage crisis in 2010.
By following these 10 steps, your real-time blogging can play a vital role in helping you prepare for, respond to and manage a crisis. You'll earn respect for openly communicating, and you'll establish trust for the future.
Remember: One-size social media does not fit every situation. Anticipate, plan for the worst crisis you can imagine, and blog for the best.
Have you had success blogging in a crisis? What were your biggest challenges? Please share in the Comments section.
Jeff Domansky is a PR consultant, crisis manager, and writer, blogger and editor of The PR Coach. Follow him on Twitter @theprcoach.
This article originally ran on ProBlogger.net.