What is Public Relations Crisis Management?
It is the process of preparing an organization for a major event that threatens the organization, its reputation, stakeholders, or the general public.
Interested parties about the current situation, potential risks, and planned actions. A well-prepared crisis plan should contain the first type of message that will be sent out to the world.
A PR crisis occurs when negative events or reviews impact your brand’s reputation. Bad PR is likely at some point, but how your company responds can determine how detrimental the impact becomes.
Most businesses will face a public relations crisis at one time or another. From a string of bad reviews to a serious executive scandal, a negative incident can have a powerful impact on a company’s reputation. No one expects you to be perfect, but they do expect you to be human and that shows in the way you handle such instances.
A PR crisis is when any negative event or review related to your business gains traction in the public sphere. It could be related to an unhealthy business practice, a customer accident at your location, or an internal, employee-related issue.
PR crises are important because they can taint your small business’s image in the minds of your customers. What’s more important to understand about PR crises: You likely can’t control their outcome. While there are some strategies you can implement to mitigate damage, once the information is out there, your business is going to have to roll with the punches and do its best to turn a wrong into a right.
The following tips will help you in handling a PR Crisis:
1. Investigate what happened before crafting a crisis response: you need to get the full story. Use your connections in the organization to determine exactly what happened. You need to know the entire story from an internal perspective, and how your customers perceive the incident externally. This can be the most time-consuming step, but also the most important: Do not react to a PR crisis if you don’t know exactly what happened and why it happened.
2. Is this PR crisis having an immediate impact on the business? Will it have a future impact on the business? Before you react, it’s important to know how your decisions will impact the business, revenue, and brand reputation. This step will be very important as you begin to make decisions on messaging and your overall corporate stance on the crisis.
3. Appoint a response team: Your business should already have a response team in place before a crisis even hits. However, during a controversy, you’ll want to appoint a response team quickly to ensure the right people are speaking on behalf of your company. With one voice, which is difficult to achieve when multiple people begin to speak on its behalf.
4. Identify and address the affected parties: You should identify the people who need to know about the situation, such as employees, stakeholders, business partners, customers, and the media. Gault noted that the audience will depend on the context of the situation, but regardless of who’s receiving your message, you should make sure it is sent out in a timely manner.
Send a press release to known and friendly press contacts who are likely to portray the story in a fair or favorable light. But media outlets are quick to pick up stories once they break, so you should have prepared statements and press releases ready to go before you’re approached by reporters.
5. Monitor the situation: Assessing your brand’s image is especially important following a PR crisis. You will need to keep an eye on inbound and outbound communications to address follow-up questions or concerns. “It’s necessary to exercise extreme caution and care when dealing with customers and partners,” said Morgan Mathis, vice president at Highwire PR.
It’s important to also track what people are saying about your company online. Companies are at risk of losing 22 percent of their business with just one negative article on the first page of search results, according to Reputation Management. Look at Google images, online review sites, social media platforms, and even your own website for any negative, user-generated content.
“A key component of effective crisis communications is understanding what various audiences and stakeholders are saying about an organization at any given time,” said George Sopko, vice president of Stanton.
Sopko also recommended monitoring the company’s brand and crisis keywords, influencers, and competitors.
6. Review and learn from the situation: Once the crisis is over, Nierman suggests conducting a post-action review. “Look at how well your staff and management handled the situation,” he said. “Discuss what could have been done differently and what changes are necessary to prevent a similar situation.”
In an infographic on the topic, Reputation Management recommended focusing on recovering your credibility after a crisis. Shift the conversation to positive news from your brand.