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10 Ways to Use Your Blog to Manage a Crisis

This guest post is by Jeff Domansky of The PR Coach.

Your blog is a very important part of your personal image or company brand. While you’ve invested time in its development, have you ever thought about how you could use your blog to manage a crisis?

A blog offers several advantages compared to news releases, websites, or other social media channels.

Image by Jeff Domansky of Fotolia.com, used with permission

It lets you control your message without a media filter. It speaks with authority as your “voice of record.” In a crisis, your blog can be a valuable internal and external communications tool. And, most importantly, with quick action, it can help ensure you’re heard accurately in a crisis.

Ten ways to blog in a crisis

Here are ten valuable ways you can 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 a vacuum being filled by 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 shows how SeaWorld used its blog effectively in the tragic death of an employee by one of its Killer Whales.

3. Voice of record

Use your blog as your company’s voice when you can’t reach everyone more easily in other ways. A fire or other emergency may prevent you from accessing your email system, your office fax, or communications equipment. In that situation, your blog may be your only available communications 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 has quit trying to “spin” its story after a poor media relations effort.

3. Updates

Quick, timely updates through your blog can be invaluable in keeping employees, customers, regulators, fire and safety officials, the media, and the general public informed of new developments. Remember, your updates can be very brief and factual. Most crisis managers know 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 oil spill cleanup updates, but received pointed criticism for its attempts to paint the recovery unrealistically. BP since shuttered this blog and removed the posts, demonstrating how transparent and objective you must be for success.

4. Corrections

Your blog is critical in correcting mistakes, responding to misinformation, and making sure that audiences have the correct information. Move quickly to correct 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. Leverage internal resources

In a crisis, employees are your most valuable resource. Encourage employees to view your blog. Suggest they provide links to the blog to their key contacts. It informs employees, controls their messages and helps them respond to family, community, customer and other concerns with accurate information.

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

In the heat of a crisis, it may be difficult to reach media. Your blog can provide critical media information as well as links to press releases, fact sheets, FAQs, photos, video, and everything else a reporter needs if they can’t reach a spokesperson. Make sure your blog address and 24-hour phone contacts are provided on all media information.

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 company, fire, and safety contacts, and community organizations. Provide all employees with key information including the blog address. 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 in advance before you have a crisis.

8. Enrich and personalize response

Your blog is a great vehicle for visuals, multimedia, links and many additional voices that allow richer, more effective, more human response 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. SEO

Careful use of keywords in your post titles and content helps you rank higher in search engines and news aggregators, allowing you to compete for a fair and balanced share of voice in the crisis coverage.

10. Post-crisis

Companies often forget to do a wrap-up after a crisis has been handled. The community, your customers, employees, 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 their hostage crisis in 2010.

Don’t forget to do advance planning so your blog can be used off-site in the event of a fire or other emergency that prevents the use of your office. Build your mailing list of VIPs, media, employees, and customers with smart, useful content.  In a crisis, make sure to alert your readers with the blog address using Twitter updates when speed is critical.

By following these ten 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 definitely 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? I’d enjoy hearing from you.

Jeff Domansky is a PR consultant, crisis manager, writer, blogger and editor of The PR Coach with more than 7000 PR resources. Reach him on Twitter @theprcoach.

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Comments

  1. Good stuff; I like the Aljazeera live blog that is used to manage the crises in MiddleEast

  2. Jia Jun says:

    Thanks Jeff for the post.
    Indeed blog is the channel for us to voice out, and it did help on bringing up the message fast especially when something happen.
    It’s like the front vanguard of our business and company, where we face people directly through blogging too.

  3. Mushfique says:

    Totally rite Jeff,
    The crisis in Libya was totally covered by the bloggers themselves. They gave us the raw news of what was and is happening there.
    Normally we get to hear that the news channel do not cover the ‘original’ news instead blend other stuff in and most of the time, lie.

    Bloggers are our only hope in getting the original information in times of crisis!!

    Nice post Jeff
    THanks

  4. My favorite option would be to support with basics. I think the people look for directions during a crisis because it is such a ciaos. I also think it is a good idea to seo these posts since otherwise people will find it hard to find it.

    On a side note, I think the there is a typo. The number 2 on the list has the numeral 3!

  5. Hello Jeff

    I had a read of your post and I particularly agreed that it is good to have your blog incase other communications methods fail. This post seems to apply more to news style posts rather than informational style posts (which is what I write)

  6. Nice way to open my easter Sunday. Thanks, Jeff!

  7. when i started cover the japan eq, my earning goes down…less ad avilable for crisis i think.

  8. The one thing I would say that also adds a lot of personality and a good option is video. If the biggest crisis ever erupts and you need to face it down words sometimes don’t do justice so having your CEO or boss on video makes all the difference. So easy to do these days as well

  9. Neosys says:

    I think blog and facebook played an important role in the middle east revelation. We hope it all ends in a peaceful way.

  10. Tell us more about how a blog can help an individual who is writing and managing his own blog. What sort of crisis he might circumvent using this tool? I am an individual blog writer, interested know a bit more

    One Cent At A Time (http://onecentatatime.com/)

  11. Great post and so true,
    I always look to Blogs for the most accurate updates etc… in a time of crisis. I feel I get way more detailed info and certainly up to date info that is to the point. Being on the west coast we were a little concerned with the happenings in Japan, but through blogs I was able to get immediate info and keep up to date to give back to my family.

  12. Wallpaper says:

    This is a very interested post about a possible unique use of the blog. However, maybe you should fix the numbering. ie 1, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6,

  13. Chris Jones says:

    Good for live blogging, but most niche bloggers are not dealing with these kind of crisis.(At least me).

  14. George Tee says:

    Great post, Jeff. I personally like what you said about Quick response, Updates and Post-crisis. Blogs can be use as a trusted gateway of a company or an organization especially in time of crisis. Giving an official statement to the public is a way of saying what is happening to the company, in that way it clarifies and avoid wrong speculations.

  15. Jeff,
    This is another great way to utilize your blog. I had never thought of using it in this way before.

  16. Deepak says:

    Nice perspective about how blogging can be used for. It is hard to imagine how companies like GE can get it wrong.

    Blog owners have responsibility towards society and they can contribute towards managing crisis in public life with the reach of their blog.

    Recently I wrote an article about – All the blogs belong to the readers and subscribers and not the blog owners.

    Thanks

    Deepak

  17. Create a separate category for crisis posts & publish them. (Pun intended) I prefer using Social Media, instead of writing a separate post though.

    • Santosh says:

      That’s true. You wouldn’t want your crisis posts to fall in the same category as your other normal posts. But I guess, if you run an education blog, you aren’t probably supposed to write about the crisis in Middle East or the tsunami in Japan unless, of course, it has a bearing on your target audience. In such cases, I am more likely to use the social media. After all writing a 100 word post on my blog will take longer than tweeting a 140 character message.

  18. Nice post, Jeff. Thank you for sharing.

    I wrote up a brief case study from my own experience of blogging “The Story of how Cancun & the Riviera Maya got back on its feet” following Hurricane Wilma in October 2005.

    As I wrote in the post – “the web truly became social for me over those few months” [from Dec 2005 to April 2006]

    Blogging a crisis: reflecting on some lessons learned

    • Steve, your story is an excellent case study on crisis blogging. Too bad in those early days officialdom didn’t grab hold. Today, I suspect the response would be different. Cheers.

  19. AE Thanh says:

    With SEO, you can go one step further. Some people call it “reputation management on the web”. This is where you rank for specific keywords that cover up the bad things of your company. You will need a bunch of online properties for this to work, but it is definitely something you can do to handle a crisis (if it ever happens to you).

  20. I read your entire post it is too good and I like this most your information is too useful for me,
    This is another great way to utilize your blog.Thanks for sharing.

  21. Rahul Banker says:

    being in SEO field, I always prefer being perfect in SEO and I always look out for the flaws and errors I can find in a site. and yes, agree with the other aspects as well :)

  22. Karan Lugani says:

    It usually happens that the blog runs in crisis. I prefer seo in such moments but the case is even adverse to put up on other methods too.

    • Rahul & Karan, you’re right that good SEO from your blog is an asset in a crisis. The benefit, of course, that your “official” posts need to rank high in search engines to reach your key audiences. Just be careful to still keep natural voice and empathy or it’s better to use other tools like online ads. Regards.
      Jeff

  23. balkony says:

    Hello Jeff,, after i read your post,, generally,, it’s true that blog can we manage used to blow up and update the news

  24. Suraj says:

    SEO and Social media are crucial part of any blog/website. Social media sites can help brands to keep in contact with readers & customers.

  25. Gene says:

    I think it is best to input the crisis information on your blog, Input the title of your post on twitter and follow up with facebook or other social media if you have it.

  26. Never thought of this before until I read your blog post. Thanks, this is awesome.

  27. Hello Jeff,
    The power of a blog and its advantages over other forms of communication are well stated in your post. It would seem that when companies write disaster recovery plans, blogs need to be referenced.
    Riley

  28. Very well said.Yes,the blogs are powerful source to let the voices out .Its an powerful media that captures the attention of the whole world just in seconds with tweets alongside.I am letting few of my internal voices out in my blog too

    Uma

  29. I wrote up a brief case study from my own experience of blogging “The Story of how Cancun & the Riviera Maya got back on its feet” following Hurricane Wilma in October 2005.

  30. nisay says:

    Wanting to blog to help people and the youth to have somewhere they can speak.
    Nisay

  31. Hi Jeff,

    Awesome post,
    Leverage internal resources and Post-crisis is new thing for me in this post,
    The example of Craigslist founder Craig, Discovery Channel, Whole Foods Market’s’ blog, GE are the best part of the post.
    Very good strategy to maintain the blog not only in crisis but also in normal conditions

    Thanks for sharing interesting post with us
    John