A misconception about the PR industry is that it is reactive, rather than proactive. The reality, however, is that PR is a tool and trade that is also effective when used as a preventative measure.In other words, it is always much more preferable to take precautions against a PR crisis before one occurs, rather than have to sift through the fallout of one.
While it may seem like a paradoxical effort to manage a disaster before it strikes, the golden rule for handling a PR crisis is a simple one: prevention is the best medicine.
Here’s how to prevent a PR crisis from coming to pass.
1. Build a Brand Image
There is no better time to build a strong brand profile than while a business is in the public’s good books. Whether a firm decides to create an in-house PR department, or engage the services of an agency or independent communications specialist, connecting with expertise is a crucial step in developing a brand’s resistance to PR crises.
PR professionals are an investment in a brand’s future: while the waters are smooth, expert communicators will enhance a brand’s public image while looking for issues before they rise. If, or when, a crisis does strike, the business already has a trusted and familiar team in place to deal with the controversy as it unfolds.
2. Honesty is the Best Publicity
From individuals to organizations, the most common instinct is to withhold sensitive information. While in many cases this line of thinking is entirely logical, honesty must be a priority when it comes to issues of public concern. This extends to what a company discloses to its PR team. Without comprehensive and accurate information, it is impossible for a communications team to develop a proper strategy in advance of a crisis, and in response to one. Businesses must remain open to those from whom they seek expertise, so that they can work to avoid every potential crisis.
3. Listen to the Pros
Companies, whatever the industry, must listen to professional advice. This applies to their engagement with PR professionals. It is always in the decision maker’s best interest to appropriately recognize which matters fall within the realm of their expertise, and when to heed the advice of more experienced persons. Many crises that hit the headlines today could have been avoided had business leaders listened to the advice of their respective communications teams.
4. Act Fast
When even a spark of an issue rears its ugly head, businesses have to act fast to get in front of the message. High-risk incidents must be communicated swiftly to the appropriate teams, and communications professionals must react immediately to develop a well-thought out, and efficient, response. While every case is different, the sooner a business acts, the faster they are able to take control of the narrative. On social media, brands are typically assumed guilty until proven innocent. The only way to tackle a brewing crisis head-on is to get in early, shape the narrative and prove a brand’s worth before it develops into anything larger.
Ronn Torossian: Insights from a Native New Yorker and CEO of 5WPR
Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals.
Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 250 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions.
Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR.
Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller.
A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities