George Drucker January 21, 2014 | 10:29:34

Don’t Leave This Out of Your Strategic Communications Plan

When approaching a client PR proposal or strategic communications plan, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement of insightful strategies and creative tactics. But it’s also important to prepare prospects or current clients for any downside risk. In the era of instant communication and real-time social media response, it’s best to put plans in place that can minimize, neutralize, or even preempt any kind of negative coverage. The best time to start is before it happens.

Here are a few tips for crisis planning within a strategic communications plan.

Address the negatives. Don’t be afraid to address risks in the context of a proactive and largely positive recommendation. It’s natural to want to maximize excitement and enthusiasm, but clients and prospects will appreciate strategic thinking as well as concrete steps to safeguard reputation. Just be sure to place the “crisis” section in its proper context.

Think like a reporter.  Make sure your client company understands media objectives: their job is to disclose and report news, not to protect anyone’s reputation. If there are skeletons in the corporate closet or ordinary customer problems that are easily searchable, a good journalist will balance out the positive with the not-so-positive.

Understand the user experience. If you haven’t experienced your client’s product or service, make sure you do so, in order to identify with the typical customer and vet the user experience.

Treat the crisis plan as a living document. It should be separate from your communications plan, and refreshed regularly. One of the most common mistakes made by corporations is a defensive plan that’s kept in a drawer. Things change, people move on, and logistics will always need to be updated.

Use case histories. If you’re having trouble “selling in” a reputation management component to your plan, research and quantify the cost of not preparing for likely contingencies. PRSA has an excellent digital library on the topic.

Look at your plan from every angle. As in Newtonian theory, for every action there (can be) an equal and opposite reaction. So, think this through by preparing.

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