5 Stories to Tell Before Crisis Strikes
Updated: Mar 17
Don't wait until a crisis hits to start telling your story
Often, by the time clients contact me, they are in the midst of a crisis. A disgruntled customer has launched a social media campaign against them. An employee’s misconduct threatens the organization’s brand, operational issues have caused a firestorm or a major contract has been canceled. The list of crises goes on.
When I enter the room, the client is desperate to tell their side of the story, and, most of the time, they have a great one to tell. After they outline the basics of the crisis, they usually begin sharing how their organization is a leader in its field, has a strong history of community involvement or has long-standing practices that promote diversity and inclusion, among others.
Where can I find these stories, I ask? This question is usually met with silence. More times than not, these stories are part of the organization’s oral history. They aren’t shared with the audiences whose support and understanding the company needs in the midst of a crisis.
Content development and crisis
We all know how important content development is to companies’ ability to engage their customers and drive marketing efforts and brand loyalty. What isn’t talked about as frequently is the role it can play in blunting attacks on your brand and reputation when crisis hits.
Consistently telling your story across channels allows you to develop champions while also creating a treasure trove of stories that you can repurpose during a crisis to say, “This is who we are and who we have always been.” These stories should be used across channels, including your:
3. Social media accounts
The stories will differ depending upon your industry.
As part of its ongoing content development, an airport, for example, can post videos and blog posts about how its operations and emergency response teams prepare for aircraft accidents. In this post, Heathrow Airport’s “Airside Ian” describes the measures the airport takes to deter birds from taking residence near the airfield. Bird strikes have been a popular topic for the media since the Miracle on the Hudson in 2009.
The blog post explains in detail the steps the airport takes to prevent bird strikes. By doing so, it not only educates its audience on its efforts, but it also creates content that can be shared across channels if and when a bird strike occurs.
Five stories that should be in your content calendar
The purpose of a content calendar is to ensure you are regularly engaging and informing your key stakeholders, supporting your marketing efforts and building brand loyalty. If you follow this formula, you will build relationships with your audience and create content that will support and protect your brand before, during and after a crisis.
Here are five content ideas for telling your audiences who you are, what you value and how you do what you do. These stories should become part of your regular content rotation. Remember, these stories are not posted and then forgotten. Content can always be repurposed and shared multiple times on social media.
1. Community Involvement. What better way to illustrate your organization’s values than by telling the stories of how you give back to the community? How is your organization involved in the communities it serves? Do you provide scholarships for local high school seniors? Do your employees regularly volunteer at the local food bank? If you are a large organization with a national or global audience, what contributions are you making on a large scale? Are you contributing to diversity and inclusion efforts through scholarships or public information campaigns? Have you sent a team of volunteers to another state to help with cleanup after a tornado or hurricane?
2. Employee Profiles. Recognizing your employees is not only good for morale, but it also allows you to give insight into your organization from a perspective that many readers can relate to. Employee profiles should not focus on the C-suite; instead, they should highlight employees on the job or volunteering in the community. For example, conduct an interview with a scientist who is working on a new medical breakthrough. Post photos of employees packing food for neighbors in need.
3. Preparedness. This story idea may not apply to your organization. If you are a city, town, airport, school or food bank, among others, write blog posts or film videos about how your team prepares year-round for potential crises, such as hurricanes, snowstorms, economic downturns and aircraft accidents. If you are a company that provides services to cities and towns during these events, film a video of the equipment or service you provide during a crisis, such as snow or debris removal.
4. Safety Measures. Use stories to tell your audiences how you ensure their families' safety. As a result of the pandemic, locally-owned restaurants, malls and business offices are telling their audiences about cleaning protocols and mask mandates. Safety is also an ongoing and important story for food production companies, think Fresh Express, car manufacturers and infant product companies, just to name a few. In addition to describing your safety protocols on your website, include social media posts about your commitment to safety, include photos and videos and link back to your website or blog.
5. Leadership Profiles. Let people know who is running your organization but be careful; a suit standing in front of your logo will not always connect with your audience. Instead, take photos of the CEO in action and post them to social media. Post videos or photos of members of your executive team talking to employees or interacting with customers. Remember, authenticity is one of the best ways to connect with people, so capture photos that are real and underscore your organization's core values and mission.
What other stories do you tell to engage your audiences and build brand loyalty? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.
Like this post? Please consider sharing on social media and follow me there. Need assistance with creating content or writing a crisis communication plan? Contact me and start telling your story.