3 Tips on Managing a Crisis from Jeff Nene

Last week, my social media public relations class had the privilege of hearing from Jeff Nene, public relations director of Convoy of Hope, a faith-based non-profit organization in Springfield, Mo., with a global reach. Prior to class, I had worked with Jeff before as his intern briefly, so I am familiar with the organization and their goals. He gave our class a great example of how to handle a crisis gracefully that could potentially harm your organization’s reputation and good tips to crisis communication.

Say it all

First, Jeff said it is imperative to be genuine and transparent when communicating during a crisis. Do not hide undesirable details or try and spin the truth. He gave us four tips for communicating in a crisis:

  1. You must be genuine while finding common ground.
  2. Say what you do and do what you say.
  3. Find compelling stories if at all possible and make those your emphasis.
  4. Realize and embrace the power of words.

Say it first

Second, when managing a crisis, be sure to say your message first because “in the absence of information, people make up their own.” He shared examples of different organizations that waited two or three days to respond to a crisis, and their precise message means nothing because the damage is already done.        

Say it yourself

Lastly, it is important to communicate the information yourself. Do not hide behind a press release, computer screen or the news reports. Get your spokesperson out there and respond to the crisis in person with humility and transparency. Do not let the reporters, other organizations or the public tell your story.

2010 Convoy of Hope Year End Review from Convoy of Hope on Vimeo.

Convoy of Hope’s Crisis

Jeff shared an example of when he represented Convoy of Hope during a crisis. It had sponsored a community outreach event in Springfield, and someone reported to the news station that they had found bugs in the food given out at the outreach. This story had the potential to damage Convoy’s reputation, but Jeff handled the situation gracefully by apologizing to the family it affected and offering to right the wrong, while at the same time assuring the public of Convoy of Hope’s diligence in keeping the food it delivers safe.

He promised to give fresh food to anyone it affected in the community and took the news crew into the warehouse and had the reporters open different food packages to show this as a rare occurrence. He practiced what he preached by saying it all, saying it first and saying it himself. The story did not detract from the successful community outreach, and the people wronged were given fresh food. Everyone won.

Jeff gave a great presentation, and it was good to see him again. Convoy of Hope is a great organization. If you are interested in learning more about what they do around the world, check out their website, Facebook page or Twitter account.

3 Ways to Win from Lon Safko

I am enrolled in a public relations social media class that uses The Social Media Bible by Lon Safko as our main textbook. It lives up to its name; it is an 800 page comprehensive book that goes into detail of the why behind social media and how to utilize social media platforms. Even though social media is constantly evolving, this book is a great resource for any public relations professional because the thought process behind the medium does not often change even when the platforms do.

Last week, our class had the unique opportunity to hear from the author Lon Safko, the author of The Social Media Bible, via Skype Even though we encountered some initial technical glitches, it was so incredible to be able to hear concepts we had been reading about come to life. Safko shared with us three ways to “win” in social media strategy.

I win because I listen.

First, Safko said that you win, when you listen. People are talking via social media you even if your organization is not online. Listening to their conversation and responding appropriating can build your brand’s trust and awareness incredibly.

I win because I have Google Juice.

Secondly, Safko says having Google Juice makes you a winner. Google Juice is essentially how easily you or your organization can be found via Google search. Safko explained that Google indexes blogs as most valuable right now because the natural of blogs is to be updated on a regular basis. Therefore, if an organization blog, it often improves their search engine optimization, or SEO. Also, he said it drives traffic to your website because Google gives preference to sites that have outside sites linking back to them.

He also said to our class that we are “the first generation for creating our own brands.” That is a heavy thought!

I win because I fuse social media into existing tactics.

Lastly, Safko said that the next trend in social media is integration. He previewed his new book FUSE!, which will delve into these strategies more. He emphasize social media is just a new way to communicate, like I mentioned in my previous post. The organizations that will succeed are the ones who truly understand this and are not afraid to put their Twitter handle on a brochure or business card.

It was an incredible to hear Safko’s written wit come to life and hear some of his concepts in his book explained by the author himself. My favorite quote he said was about MySpace saying it “attracted teenagers like a raccoon to a trashcan.” He is currently working on the third edition of The Social Media Bible, which should be available sometime in the spring.