By Chris Gilmour

I know what you’re probably thinking. A crisis is a crisis, no matter what year it is.

But every organisation should be aware of trends which have a high likelihood of impacting on their business.

Whether it’s a change in online behaviour which should be considered as part of a social media crisis management strategy, or an update in technology which can be added to a digital crisis management plan, certain trends have potential to cause negative impact.

Consider the trend for selfies, which got Barack Obama into hot water when he posed with the Danish Prime Minister for one at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

It’s always worth considering the risk that a seemingly harmless fad could pose to a brand.

When updating a crisis communication plan or considering a PR crisis management strategy, these scenarios should be played out and mitigated as much as possible.

Here are just a few shifts in society which could affect a company in a crisis.

Live streaming

This first caught the world’s attention when Philando Castile’s girlfriend used Facebook Live to stream the aftermath of his shooting by a police officer in 2016. Since then, there have been a few cases of a crisis being live-streamed to the public.

While the ability to record an event and upload it is nothing new, the real-time aspect of live streaming gives a perception of transparency which makes viewers believe they are seeing the whole story.

This presents a challenge in terms of PR communication strategies, if an organisation has to counter this perceived truth – which could be emotionally compelling. How would you convince the public that your perspective is just as real?

As a counter balance, live streaming could prove a useful tool, if leveraged properly, during a crisis – perhaps showing the organisation working towards a resolution. 

Activism and making an example of brands

Activists are becoming savvy at maximising media exposure. More often than not, if they can grab onto a well-known name or iconic symbol to make their case, they will do so.

For example, if they object to artificial hormones being used in dairy cows, the smart ones won’t bore reporters with science. Instead they’ll expose a well known coffee chain which uses the milk, until this brand is targeted by health advocates.

Organisations which have worked hard to build up their brand should beware of activists who piggyback on that effort to gain headlines, and give the media the perfect David and Goliath scenario.

A crisis communication plan should always scrutinise any opportunities for this to happen. Look at suppliers and other businesses connected to the brand, and ask yourself do they leave you vulnerable?

Cybersecurity and workplace violence

These high risk scenarios will continue to sit at the top of the league table of threats to organisations in 2017.

Don’t forget the purpose of a crisis management plan is to foresee any company crisis and put in place safeguards to prevent it – or deal with it should the worst happen.

These serious risks deserve an emergency drill. Run through the protocols with staff which have been put in place to actively block this sort of activity, and the action plan to deal with these types of scenarios. Are they strong enough? Can they be improved upon?

It is well worth the effort and time to create a crisis simulation. This is when crisis management consultants from outside the organisation can see the bigger picture and spot any vulnerabilities which those on the inside may not see.

Twitter fatigue

The fact that people are becoming less enthralled with this platform will no doubt affect crisis management, as well as a company’s response to an emergency situation.

The impact of social media on public relations has been immeasurable, and Twitter has in the past been the leading platform for delivering updates in times of crisis.

But as the public are more inclined to choose other platforms, it’s worth discussing as an organisation the channels used to deliver important messages.

Twitter is far from over. But the competition from other platforms means that crisis trends could turn towards another communication strategy.

It is important to leverage social media to your advantage in times of emergency. So keep a close eye on how Twitter is used, both everyday and during a crisis, and remain open to other channels of communication.


For help and advice with your crisis strategy, contact us now on 0800 612 9890.