Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Still lacking a crisis communications plan?

The new decade started with the planet’s most famous and well-known athlete facing unrelenting press coverage for his off-the-course activities.

If you didn’t see that news, you may have been wrapped up in the coverage of an automaker that ran into its fair share of negative publicity. In a year’s time, Toyota went from fan favorite (last February, Consumer Reports named the Toyota Prius Touring the best overall value among 300 cars in its 2009 Annual Auto Issue) to facing one image crisis after another, including a major recall and suspension of sales of several popular models.

Yet while Tiger and Toyota clearly dispel the old belief that there’s no such thing as bad PR, they are better examples of the adage that “failure to plan is planning to fail.”

While I can’t speak to Toyota’s or Tiger’s crisis communications plans before or after their infamous falls from grace, surveys have shown that a majority of BtoB marketers don’t have up-to-date crisis plans in their communications toolboxes.

As recently as 2007, a story in BtoB Online stated that about 53% of marketing executives had experienced a business crisis resulting in negative news coverage, declining sales or reduced profitability. But just about the same number (57%) said their company did not have a crisis response plan in place.

Although a BtoB technology company’s crisis is not likely to make Entertainment Tonight the pages of People or even fall into the “disaster” category, there are plenty of reasons, including many financial ones, to be prepared to communicate in the event the unexpected happens.

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