Five Tips to Create a PR Crisis Management Plan

crisis management plan

Avoid negative communication consequences when your casino reopens

The entire casino industry shut down over three weeks ago.

As operations were shutting down, marketing departments were challenged to coordinate with key management to get the word out with accuracy.

Events over the past few weeks exposed a weakness in planning for casino marketing departments. The lack of a PR Crisis Management Plan.

Fast Forward to Reopening

The unprecedented Coronavirus crisis will create permanent change in the casino and hospitality industries.

The post “shelter in place” world for casinos will alter the casino operating environment in dramatic ways.

At least in the short-term.

The challenge will be to communicate industry changes. Communications will be tasked with motivating pre-Coronavirus patrons to return to a post-Coronavirus environment that was transformed to enhance safety.

Compare to Pre- and Post-9/11

Today’s post-9/11 world is tighter and security-centric. Changes in society surrounding our safety post-9/11 permeate how we travel and how we conduct our daily lives. As a result, we are safer from terror.

The post-Coronavirus world will create changes in casinos and hospitality in the short and long term.

Along the way, there will be experimentation, new concepts, and intrusions that did not exist last month. All designed to create a safer environment for our guests and team.

Praise or Condemn

As a result, patrons will take to social media to praise or condemn the changes.
You can develop communication strategies that are designed to mitigate unforeseen negative publicity. Negative publicity is the last thing your property will need while trying to navigate changes in operations.

In some cases, you are going to have to decide to advertise at all, versus direct contact with guests via direct mail and email. Traditional mass advertising on TV and radio may create negative bounce back in the early stages.

When unpredictable events require the focus of the company, a PR Crisis Management Plan allows the company to respond quickly as a coordinated team.

Five tips to build a PR Crisis Management Plan

1. Control the Message/Create a Crisis Management Team

The leader of the crisis management team normally originates from marketing. Select a single team member to gather information and serve as the point person. Your CEO or President may be your spokesperson, but the communication team leader should oversee the process. Make sure every crisis management team member has an updated phone contact list and a response checklist. A crisis will never check the clock and usually happens off hours. Establish a chain of command. Ensure that your entire company understands that the only person who speaks to the media is the designated crisis response leader.

2. Observe and Monitor

Installing reputation management programming to track social media, traditional media and digital sources is not a crisis management technique. It is a daily strategy every casino, large or small, should follow. A reputation management system will track down comments – good or bad – and help categorize the interactions so you can distribute to your team for response. Your social media manager will pick up negative comments from the system and alert the team.

3. Understand the Situation

When a pattern of negative comments appears, investigate the comments or the news stories and communicate to company leadership. Situations in a PR crisis are moving targets and feed off each other. As the communications leader, present an unemotional case regarding the source of the issues and help develop a new process and way to communicate the adjustment.

4. Talk to the Frontline

The road to understanding why negative comments exist is to talk to the people who deal with the situation every day. Frontline team members will be your fastest path to the truth. When guests are upset and your circumstance goes viral, the frontline will understand the trigger. A good practice will be to set up regular interaction with your frontline team. Larger companies can design guest satisfaction surveys to quickly understand which new opening procedures are causing the most negative comments.

5. Honesty is the Best Policy

When you experience a negative situation, the best response is the honest response. Be open with your communications and careful not to overreact. The first rule of crisis management is to take a step back, assess the situation and develop a measured response strategy. Never say “No Comment.” Instead, relay that you are assessing the situation. Going over the top with an overreaction will just fan the flames. Do not be afraid to apologize and be genuine. Never make statements or promises that you can’t deliver.

The Unexpected

The Coronavirus slammed the entire casino and hospitality industry with an unexpected blow. Intelligent, human and creative responses to the challenges will see us through. Organizations that meet the challenges and have a communications strategy will survive.

Be safe, stay healthy and take care.

Tom Osiecki