Crisis Mode: PR’s Worst Nightmare…Or Is It?

By Adam Brown

When something is going wrong, where do people turn? Who receives the blame? Who is expected to respond – in which way and with what message? Those working in PR know that a whole lot of work exists outside of responding to issues and crises, but it is at these times that those in this profession are scrutinised the most. So how do you deal with these issues effectively? Here are some ways to turn these would-be stressful situations into could-be positive ones.

Do your research and prepare for the worst

Issues and crises can produce highly volatile and unpredictable results for businesses, so planning for these occurrences in a necessary part of every integrated business model. This is no secret, in any profession. If you aren’t well researched and aware of your industry, there is every chance you will be blindsided when an issue arises. In fact, the benefits of doing effective research can even lead to the aversion of potential crises all together! Allocating some time, a person, or a team (depending on the size and nature of your business) to scout the terrain and identify potential threats before they arise is an increasingly important role of PR practitioners.

Have (and maintain) an online presence

This does not necessarily mean that of all your competitors you have to be the most active on all your social media platforms, but it does mean you have to at least be there! And yes, it is best if you are there on all of them. There is no denying the communicative power of these new digital tools, so use them to your advantage before they are used against you. By having an online presence before a crisis you are building relationships with the public that can be drawn upon when it counts, in a way that is more trusted by these audiences. It also ensures you don’t lose control to this largely user-generated form of publishing that has the potential to bring the public’s voices to light like never before.

Respond: quickly, honestly and openly

Use these channels (and please never forget to use your traditional ones too) to communicate with those you have built these relationships with! Any response is better than no response, so a timely, honest one is much, much better. Be prepared to meet the needs of the media during the crisis phase, and have a spokesperson from the business to act as the face of the company and address the media.

But remember, most importantly, do your research and communicate with your publics internally and externally before a crisis occurs, as it may lead to its avoidance all together.

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