Many people believe that much of a PR practitioner’s work is crisis mitigation. In reality, it’s usually less that 0-1% of the time per client account (hopefully).
When things go astray, it’s usually because of the unforeseen; but there are several things you can do to get through any incident efficiently and without lasting damage.
Take lead and own it
There is a difference between putting out a holding statement and accepting legal culpability. Never issue any crisis comm’s that imply you or your client were at fault. But you need to make media and the public know that you are aware something has happened and that you are investigating, either internally, with the client or with the relevant authorities. This is the purpose of a holding statement.
Have people ready
Make sure that senior people within your company are aware and are briefed on what they can or cannot say. Note that this may be a different person to whoever picked up the news report initially. Co-ordinate and plan resource.
Listen to feedback
You need to try to listen to what the public is telling you about what you are doing in your business, and doubly so in crisis situations. Another way to do this is to check out what people are talking about on social media. The feedback that you receive from the public can be useful for forming a great public relations response.
Freaking out only makes things worse. Think calmly through the situation, in close collaboration with your teams. You can also reach out to trusted sources outside of your company, if you need further (confidential) advice. People do crazy stuff when they are under stress.
Turn crisis into opportunity
If the spotlight is shining on you for all the wrong reasons, think about how to manage the situation properly and look at the possible contribution of positive exposure. Nike was pulled apart by an angry president recently for their choice of posterboy. Their sales grew by 23% the following week.
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