Crisis communication is a central part of any public relations strategy. When something occurs and threatens your clients’ reputation, it’s the job of a PR pro to get ahead of the situation. This is only possible with the right preparation.
1. Advance planning
“When you are launching a controversial campaign or releasing some breaking news preparation is key. Have a high representative at the company draft a statement in case there is negative backlash.”
– Rosa González, PR & Communications Manager at BYHOURS.
“More often, companies come to us after the storm has hit. I’ve learned to listen carefully and calmly. It sounds basic but it matters. I want them to walk away from our first discussion of the crisis more at ease, assured that I’ve dealt with this before and understand the scope of their problem. I can’t do that if I’m not listening. I’ve learned how little people understand how the media works and how much they fear journalists. That distrust and fear can lead to a poor response and irreversible reputation damage. My job is to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
– Kate Lucadamo, VP at Mercury Public Affairs.
3. Working with Legal
“Don’t let lawyers run the PR strategy. You can work collaboratively with the legal team but there will be times when the strategies veer. I once had a case where the client completely deferred to the lawyers. They won their case in court but their brand name was destroyed in the public opinion arena and the company had to declare bankruptcy.”
– Douglas Bailey, Senior VP at Rasky Partners.
4. Silence is not always golden
“Frequently because a company does not know everything about a crisis situation, as they are often fluid, they say nothing at all, which only serves to hurt them. Silence is seen as indifference or an affirmation of guilt and allows critics, adversaries and the media to define the crisis and your company’s motives. It is completely acceptable to communicate what you can and tell the media you will provide more information as it becomes available.”
– Jennifer Donahoe, Public Relations and Social Media Account Director at Planit Agency.