What Camping Teaches Us about Crisis Communications


While I’ve forgotten most of the campfire stories and knot tying tricks, there’s something about colder weather that reminds me of my Cub Scout camping days. I was recently thinking about the old scout motto that our troop leaders instilled in us from an early age, “Be Prepared” and how this extends into almost everything we do in life.

Following a plan and preparing for the worst is especially critical during a crisis situation. Do you think a Boy Scout would leave for a hike without water and his trusty trail mix?

Here are several ways you can “Be Prepared” before a crisis impacts your business and bottom line, particularly in highly visible social environments.

1. Be Smart to Survive

How many headaches do you think stem from a crisis situation turned viral on social media? The pain extends far beyond a slight headache and deep into a brand’s core. When you’re in the midst of a crisis, you are bound to face the big bear known as online conversation. From the media and clients to community members and advocacy groups, managing and responding appropriately and transparently across multiple channels is critical to your brand coming out alive. Most organizations monitor social media conversations on Facebook and Twitter, but many have no idea how far the conversation reaches. Brand reputations that have grown over decades can completely fall apart if social media is left unchecked in the wake of a crisis.

2. It Only Takes One Tweet to Get Lost

We know that a single mention on Twitter can spark a potential crisis—not to mention creating an entire firestorm of misunderstanding in which the truth of the matter can get lost. The first step to engaging the right people with the right (and true) message is capturing this online conversation in real-time with digital measurement tools and reporting methods. By analyzing online conversations, website traffic and influencer sentiment, we can use the data to make smarter decisions and identify the right next steps. We also utilize these digital platforms to engage stakeholders to advance a message in a crisis and inform the public and other key audiences if they need to take action.

For example, Pierpont recently activated around crisis situations for two leading energy companies. While the online conversation and issues were vastly different for each, we used social analysis to pinpoint the opportunities, threats and conversation drivers. These insights drove the overall response strategy for offline and online crisis communications and helped our clients overcome their reputational challenges.

3. Only YOU can Prevent Twitter Wildfires

To curtail this firestorm of misunderstanding on social channels, especially Twitter, it’s crucial to establish clear response teams.  These leaders should be charged with regularly monitoring the social analytics to determine which conversations or online influencers have the potential to start an entire social wildfire.  Empower them with the guidelines and authority to act decisively based on the data they find. Jay Baer refers to this as a listening protocol for your organization. This is as simple as identifying: who is listening, what are they monitoring for and how do they escalate/de-escalate a conversation that’s a potential fire starter.

Overlooking digital strategy and online measurement for your organization is the equivalent of driving through a rainstorm with no windshield wipers or headlights. In order to gain control over the situation, you need the proper tools to guide you. I recommend this podcast from Pierpont’s Executive Counsel, Terry Hemeyer, to help you prepare for a crisis.

If you have questions or if you would like to learn more about how our digital strategists integrate these methods into overall communications plans, contact the Pierpont team.