Although effective public relations (PR) is a cornerstone of any successful business, nowhere is its value more apparent than during a crisis. The nature of public relations means that PR professionals will act as the face of the company during the good times and the bad.
When a crisis does occur, the team is often the first to come into action. Let's take a closer look at how public relations can be used to manage a crisis.
What Makes a PR Crisis?
A public relations crisis can come in many forms. Regardless of the way in which it takes shape, the digital age means that news travels faster than ever before. This presents both challenges and opportunities, and companies will need to ensure their team is able to make the most of both.
In most cases, a public relations crisis can be defined as an event that is expected to have a significantly negative impact on the reputation or operations of the company it affects. In turn, it's the job of public relations professionals to harness these effects as best as possible. Below are some of our essential PR crisis management tips.
Understanding the Problem
Every crisis begins with a problem, and understanding that problem is key to determining how best to deal with the issue. Depending on the source of the crisis, it's likely you will have to take some time to get to the bottom of things.
Although you may be tempted to act as fast as possible (a notion we will discuss later), reacting without having the full range of information at your disposal could do more harm than good. The last thing you want to do is make things worse – so take a step back and carefully assess the situation.
Keep Your Ear to the Ground
Gaining insight into public reactions to the crisis can go a long way in understanding the potential impact it may have on your business. Furthermore, it can also help you formulate the best possible response further down the line.
You can get an idea of the ways in which the crisis has affected people outside of the company by monitoring social media channels. If the crisis has made a big impact, you may also want to keep an eye out for any coverage in the local or national media.
By taking the time to understand the crisis' immediate impact on members of the public, you'll also be able to paint a picture of what kind of messaging might be most effective in addressing the issue.
Making a Crisis Management Plan
Once you're confident you've gained a thorough understanding of the situation at hand as well as its impact, it's time to make a plan of action. At its most basic, this response plan should set out the who, what and when of your intended response.
By settling on a well-designed plan, you can make sure that everybody in the company is on the same page when it comes to resolving the problem. This will help you send a clear and consistent message in response to the crisis, which will improve your chances of getting through the crisis relatively unscathed.
Avoiding confusion is one of the most important benefits of making a plan. A significant PR crisis will almost always put the spotlight on your business, so it's very important to make sure you get things right this time around. Creating a comprehensive crisis management plan will help you do exactly that.
Formulating a Fast Response
As briefly mentioned earlier, your first reaction to a PR crisis may be to want to formulate a response straight away. Although the speed of your response will definitely play a role in determining whether or not you handle the situation effectively, it's often best to avoid a rushed response. For this reason, it's often best to formulate the fastest possible response only after your team has received all the relevant information.
Once you're confident you have understood the situation and are ready to offer a satisfactory solution, you can start to consider getting your message out there as soon as possible. A significantly delayed response is likely to be perceived as a sign of incompetence, and has the potential to do further damage to the company.
Owning Up to Your Mistakes
Owning up to your mistakes can be an equally important element of managing a crisis effectively. Things go wrong, and honesty is often the best policy.
Your company's willingness to draw valuable lessons from the situation can go a long way in ensuring effective crisis management, as well as helping to reduce the chances of a similar issue occurring further down the line.
In the end, a constructive approach to the problem is of paramount importance in the world of PR – as well as in the wider business world itself.
If you're interested in learning more about public relations or would like to enquire about our wide range of PR services, please contact the Champions PR team via [email protected]. Alternatively, feel free to get in touch with us by phone on 08453 31 30 31.