13 Nov

Crisis communications: how to prepare your travel business?

Author: David Sanders, Director, UK Media & PR, Princess Cruises

The PR crisis of today is very different to that of 20 years ago when I entered the industry. 

Gone is the time when one reactive statement sufficed for the working day. 24-hour rolling news and the unpredictability of social media means the environment we work in has never been more instantaneous and volatile. 

PRs today must ensure they roll with the punches and be flexible, decisive and accountable at all times. ‘Citizen journalism’ isn’t going away and if you’re not prepared for it you’re not going to effectively deal with whatever crisis may be coming your way. 

Of course, you need a robust, well-practiced PR plan in place. But here’s what you might not be prepared for – and should be – now:

  1. Do you have the required level of seniority in the PR team to make decisions at all times? Stagger your leave accordingly, schedule time out of the office alongside one another and make sure the right people are to hand when you need them. Have you arranged this year’s Christmas leave so at least one of the senior team is available every day? If not go back and do it now – get a festive crisis wrong and it’s not only the turkey whose days are numbered.
  2. Just as importantly, is there a key decision maker in the business on hand at all times? You may have to produce several statements in relatively short periods of time as a situation unfolds. Is someone around to sign off what you’re recommending - because something that fits the bill in the morning may not be fit for purpose by the afternoon.

    Similarly, are your spokespeople available? If they’re away do they have the software that will allow them to join an interview at the touch of a button?
  3. Passwords, passwords, passwords. If someone on the digital team holds them, and nobody else does, you’re in trouble. You need access to content management systems, social media accounts and anything else that will have to be adapted as a crisis develops. If they’re under online lock and key and not available to a sensible spread of people then change things up or risk the painful sight of unanswered tweets flashing across your timeline with nothing you can do about it.
  4. Tone of voice has never been more important particularly with the evolution of social media. Reply to something in a breezy fashion and you’re not taking the situation seriously. React too robustly and you’ve got something to hide. Then you’ve got another flurry of social media activity to deal with. Be cool, be calm, sense check everything with a trusted colleague at least once and importantly pick your battles – if someone with six followers is being particularly outlandish they don’t deserve your time or attention.
  5. Monitor everything. If you don’t have the right systems in place address them now. You need regular reports and flexible people in place to provide that. 

David will be speaking at ABTA’s Crisis Communications in Travel seminar taking place on the 5 December at the Novotel London Bridge. This popular one-day event delivers practical guidance for travel businesses of all sizes, attend to hear from PR professionals, industry peers, journalists and ABTA experts to help you plan and update your crisis communications strategy.

For further details, to view the agenda and book your place please visit abta.com/abtaevents.