Crisis in the past and (fake) crisis now: How to give the proper advise to the client?
Blog - May 21, 2019
The new age has brought completely new public relations dynamics. In the past, the media were dominant communicators or message carriers. The core of success in the profession was to pass important information to the media and enable its adequate placement. Today, everything looks different. Consumers are very powerful communicators, and social media are those that enable everyone to have their “five minutes of fame”. In the era when we digest hundreds of pieces of information, we are used to processing virtually all possible topics in a day: from politics, to economy, to social phenomena, to entertaining and light content, to wars, migrant crises, natural disasters… It’s difficult to manage all that… both for individuals and the media and companies.
It is a common fact that journalists also search for topics online, including social media platforms… they monitor trends and turn them into their topics and articles. Most media outlets in the region have focused on attention-grabbing topics – clickbait headlines, believe-it-or-not news… with companies and brands in a myriad of all that shocking stuff…
And where is a crisis in all that? Ten or fifteen years ago, the worst possible scenario for all communicators was the news about “a foreign object in a product” appearing in public… the very thought of it gave us a headache. Today, we regularly browse through such news and stories and, to be honest, they still give us a headache. However, it is a fact that we live in the age when a significant number of media outlets exist thanks to such stories. It seems that it is natural for a human being to believe more in negative, bad news, but it is an issue for psychoanalysts to discuss. However, the question of all questions is how to handle a (fake) crisis today.
First of all, I firmly believe that preparation is still of vital importance, but today it includes much more work, getting to know all participants in a process, faster information flow and all issues or challenges that companies and institutions encounter. At the time of cyber crime, it is possible to learn and misuse everything, and therefore it is crucial to know as much as possible about every segment of business that a client is active in. Otherwise, when a crisis breaks out, precious time is lost on referring, explaining, and we all learnt back in school that a night before an exam, when the entire family is anxious and tense, is the worst for studying.
What follows is mandatory production of materials, for the “just in case” purpose, but it is a part of a good old matrix of every crisis plan. And that is when we come to a crossroads. There used to be “real” crises, big problems that reached the public… there were few situations when you discussed in public whether something happened or not… now, in the era of a plethora of fabricated crises by all sorts of communicators/individuals, the main question is how to advise a client when confronted by media inquiries… when both you and the client are aware that the entire story has no grounds or is intentionally malicious… unfortunately, it is not easy to answer this question and sometimes it’s very difficult to reach it… However, you need to suggest something to the client, because that’s #agencylife…
Sometimes our advice to the client is based on global corporate procedures, an estimate whether a specific topic is interesting enough for further elaboration, and sometimes on our good media relations. At the time when conspiracy theories are part of our collective conscious and unconscious, it is a fact that people are somewhat „numb“ regarding bad news… numb because there is so much bad news, because it fits in a general context where “an apocalypse or a nuclear war is just around the corner“… and it’s difficult to predict how things will develop and how long the era of fake news, crises and disputable content will last… It is evident that we’ll not go back to the past and that our job will be growingly challenging, so the question remains what we’ll advise our clients to do 10 years from now. There are so many questions, with emerging new technologies and channels… the bottom line is probably to keep pace, offer information in a “trendy“ package, but remain loyal to quality. Because that is, at least I hope, a timeless value. While believing in it, I choose the direction where seasoned communicators and professionals will know how to respond to challenges, with most of them already managing to do so today.