Public Relations in International Crisis: Paris Attacks

Paris Attacked

In times of international crisis, the world of public relations is equally affected by global tragedies, like the terrorist attacks in Paris this past Friday night. The reaction of corporations and their public relations firms are most effective when keeping a supportive and somber tone. At the same time, companies and firms should stay in line with the corporation’s brand. Here are some effective examples:

Paris Tribute

Flags, Colors, and Silences

This week thousands of companies around the world flew French flags at half mast, as a form of support to France at a time of mourning. To a consumer, flags at half mast on front lawns represent a global consciousness towards tragic events. In essence, the flags show respect. Similar to flags at half mast, countries and businesses use lights and moments of silence to keep a global tragedy in a public domain.

Examples of this include the Sydney Opera House which lit up in French colors, the Empire State Building going dark, and moments of silence at national events like the latest Democratic Debate. These gestures are a form of good public relations because it’s somber, sympathetic, and supportive.

facebook paris

Public Relations, Facebook and Airbnb

Paris is reeling in the aftermath of the attack, and at a local level, companies are using their products to support people still feeling the direct effects. Facebook and Airbnb both are offering their services as coping methods in the face of tragedy.

Facebook recently opened their “Safety Check” feature, which allows friends and family to make sure that people they know in Paris are safe. However, many people now wonder why Facebook did not allow this option before. In the wake of these criticisms, Facebook announced a plan to open this option far more frequently in future disasters.

Airbnb delivered a much more direct response by activating its Disaster Response plan, to provide shelter for people affected:

Airbnb’s initiative evolved from its hosts during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy in North America. The plan required Airbnb to contact all hosts in the Paris area, and waived all fees on Paris bookings from November 13 to 17. The company also encouraged hosts to offer accommodation for free – something that hundreds of Parisians have done.



Another way to promote good PR is through persevering through international sporting events. On Wednesday, the English and French soccer teams are set to play, and British soccer fans and players plan to display the words of the French National Anthem so as to stand in solidarity with the French Team, and the French player who lost a relative in the attack.

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