Molly McPherson: Digital Crisis Management

When a company finds itself in hot water with a media crisis, Molly McPherson should be their first call. She is a recognized expert in crisis management.  

McPherson came into the FEMA office of External Affairs post-Hurricane Katrina and helped the agency launch its first social media program.  

“FEMA took such a massive reputational blow because of the reaction to Katrina,” acknowledges McPherson. “When I was there, I noticed we were losing traction somewhere, because we were helping so many people on the ground. Yet the press was killing us. Now so much has changed.”

Leadership has a lot to do with crisis communications. If there is a crisis preparedness plan, something that provides a guideline to staff, it lessens the chances of having a full-out crisis. These leaders understand the cadence of a news cycle, the expectations of their customers, of their members, and whoever their external stakeholder is.

“You have to look at crisis management like marketing,” adds McPherson. Understand marketing because the two have converged. So many of these PR fails, especially coming out of 2020 in the pandemic, came from culture and from cultures that were toxic or unfair or where employees felt marginalized.”

Leaders should understand how to harness the power of all digital platforms, and know it’s another channel to reach the public, their internal stakeholders, and their employees.

Companies are having so many staffing issues. While they are looking for employees, so much of this hiring is being run through a computer system. It doesn’t read a photo, and with resumes it looks for average keywords.

“If you’re a 47 or 59 year old looking for work, you’re not going to know how to write a resume and fill it with keywords. That’s part of this whole AI. It makes hiring difficult.”

Every organization should have a plan around critical issues that an organization faces. If they have nothing, the speed of how a crisis can quickly get out of control can be daunting. In the absence of any type of message, the world will fill the void and create their own messaging around you.

Today, Molly McPherson is Indestructible PR, and her podcast, Confident Communications, follows through where her book, Indestructible, began by helping others reclaim control and respond with confidence in a media crisis.

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