Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Crisis Communications and Trust

Edelman Public Relations released its annual Trust Barometer this week. It reinforces some crisis communications fundamentals and highlights some opportunities to do better in protecting your company in a crisis. (Disclosure: I have done media training for Edelman, but not in the last few years.) It's worth your time to take a look what this survey says.

My biggest take away is that companies looking to be better prepared for a crisis should strengthen their social media presence in order to build and reinforce trust in their organizations. According to the study, trust in media is very low. In the US, only 27% of those surveyed trust the media. It's even lower in the UK at 22%. 

Companies that plan to rely on outdated crisis communications plans that focus on press releases and traditional media relations are placing their reputations in the hands of what many believe to be an untrustworthy source. The opportunity here is in developing your company's social media presence so that you can connect directly with the audiences you need to reach. The cool part is the news media also uses and monitors social media, so you can check that box, too.

If you've got a boss that is a tough sell and needs convincing on social media, read Peter Shankman's great post "Social Media for Paranoid Bosses." Take a look at Facebook and see what companies are doing on the site. BP America has a superb Facebook page that it uses to tell the story of how it's restoring the Gulf of Mexico after last year's tragic oil spill. (Disclosure: BP is a client.)

The biggest reinforcement I saw in the Edelman survey is that people believe the people they trust. 
Source: Edelman Public Relations 2011 Trust Barometer
This graphic tells me that you've got a better shot at protecting and maintaining your reputation if people trust you. Seems simple, but that doesn't mean it's easy to achieve. Another thing the survey revealed is that the two groups rated most credible as spokespeople are outside academics/experts followed by experts within the company. 

When was the last time you met with the stakeholders you will work with in a crisis? Met with agency staff or regulators recently? What about the police or fire chief? Have you trained your company's subject matter experts on how to talk with reporters? In normal times, these types of things pay slow, steady dividends to your company. In a crisis, they could be your lifeline. 

It's ok to depend on the kindness of others in a crisis. Just don't bank your reputation on the kindness of strangers. 

Bill Salvin

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