PR crisis management helps you and your organization get ahead of emerging threats while providing a roadmap for recovery after an adverse event.
In every industry, businesses will have to deal with a crisis at some point. These crises take many forms — organizational misdeeds, a scandal, an embarrassing arrest, or unflattering news coverage resulting from defective products to name a few threats — and each represents a potential PR disaster.
How can businesses maintain their brand reputation and consumer trust when a crisis occurs? In this guide, we will explore crisis management, including developing a robust crisis plan and creating a transparent crisis communication strategy.
Examples of Organizational Crises
When a PR crisis situation occurs, the crisis itself can take many forms. Examples of crises include:
- An executive scandal, such as the arrest of a business leader or financial misdeeds of key executives
- A social media crisis where unflattering or defamatory information is posted to social media channels like Facebook or Twitter
- A natural disaster, such as devastation from flooding, hurricanes, or tornadoes
- Industrial accidents, including warehouse fires, the death of an employee on work premises, or pollution spills
- Negative business news, such as poor earnings forecasts, unsuccessful mergers, or decreases in stock prices
- Serious injuries or deaths resulting from defective products
- Product recalls
Negative publicity in the wake of a crisis has the potential to erode the trust others have in your organization’s reputation, potentially leading to significant financial loss. Because your reputational capital is so critical, developing a crisis management plan is an essential tool for preserving what you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
What is Crisis Management?
Crisis management is the practice of preparing your company or organization for reputational threats arising from natural disasters, industrial accidents, organizational misdeeds, or negative news.
The purpose of crisis management is to minimize the impact on your brand’s reputation, not only from a current crisis but also against any potential crisis that may occur.
When a negative event occurs — or a potential threat poses a significant risk of financial and reputation loss, a crisis management plan can help organizations:
- Identify existing threats and potential reputational risks before they can cause negative consequences.
- Develop crisis communication strategies to allow key stakeholders to share information with business partners and customers in a clear, concise, and transparent manner.
- Improve the efficiency of recovery efforts, helping the organization return to operations quickly after a crisis occurs.
If and when a crisis hits, any organization that has a crisis response plan in place will be able to weather the fallout, allowing them to recover more quickly and reduce the damage to its brand’s all-important digital reputation.
Why is PR Crisis Management Important?
It is no secret that negative publicity is a significant risk for business owners and organizational leaders. If a PR crisis occurs, the negative news cycle can be vicious — spreading inaccurate or unflattering information across public channels.
As consumer trust is affected by a public relations crisis, managing that crisis with an appropriate response plan is of the utmost importance. The crisis management plan can help organizations:
- Define what a crisis may mean for the organization
- Assign key personnel to manage it if a crisis does occur
- Improve the safety of stakeholders and employees
- Meet regulatory standards in industries where a crisis plan is required
- Provide valuable insights into how and why incidents occur
- Serve as the foundation for rebuilding the organization when an incident or adverse event occurs
With these key factors in mind, a PR crisis management plan should be an integral part of any business model.
Benefits of a PR Crisis Management Strategy
In the above section, we presented reasons how the crisis management process gives organizations the help they need to face any crisis situation and to recover quickly if one occurs.
These are not the only advantages of having a crisis response team in place and a plan they can follow. Additional benefits include:
- Crisis communication that provides clear responses designed to inform employees, stakeholders, and customers.
- Facilitating crisis leadership when an incident occurs and after it has passed.
- Flexible and transparent messaging strategies that allow organizations to respond to a wide range of potential crises.
- Identification of current and potential threats, giving the organization the PR crisis management tools needed to prevent future incidents from occurring.
Whether you have your own in-house crisis management team or contract with a third party to provide crisis management solutions, the benefits of having a plan in place give you competitive advantages. This plan serves as a roadmap to recovery while minimizing the damage that a current crisis may present to your operations and your digital reputation.
Maintaining Brand Reputation in the Wake of a Crisis
Whether or not a crisis is justified, your brand’s reputation is at stake.
Your brand — the identifiable look, feel, and function of your organization — is widely considered to be the most valuable intangible asset you have. Protecting your reputation in the wake of a corporate scandal or an industry attack is critical.
How can you maintain your brand’s reputation when a crisis happens? Some companies have chosen to play the “waiting game” — essentially acting as if the situation never happened. This can be a recipe for disaster.
The better course of action is to deploy a comprehensive crisis communication plan to address the issue immediately and with as much transparency as possible. Your PR crisis team can facilitate crisis communications efforts with a public response, giving stakeholders the information they need to understand what’s happening.
Don’t let a crisis derail your brand. What you do before, during, and after a crisis can help you maintain or even build trust between you and your customers. With reputation management strategies that include crisis communications, you gain significant advantages whenever a public relations crisis threatens to undo everything you’ve worked so hard to accomplish.
Three Phases of the Crisis Management Plan
As your PR crisis response team develops a plan, there are three key phases of the plan that must be addressed. These phases are:
- Pre-crisis — this phase serves to identify the internal and external threats that may pose challenges to your organization. Crisis teams use sentiment analysis, negative trends analysis, industry research, and data collection to analyze potential threats, giving the organization the information it needs to make smart decisions before a crisis happens.
- Crisis response — this phase focuses on the actions and crisis communications used during an adverse event. During a crisis, communication is essential, allowing organizations to share information with stakeholders and the general public.
- Post-crisis — the post-crisis phase addresses the steps taken to start recovery efforts and to keep everyone informed of the recovery process.
Crisis Communication: A Key Component in a Response Plan
Effective crisis communications are the foundation of any crisis management plan. It cannot be overstated that media relations in the wake of a crisis can help organizations recover more quickly while reducing the financial and reputational impacts of a negative situation.
Your communications manager is the point person for dealing with the media. This manager will have extensive media training, giving him or her the tools needed to speak directly and publically. The manager often has a background as a PR specialist who is adept at all communication channels available to the organization.
From the initial press release to posts on social media platforms when a crisis presents itself, public relations professionals play an important role. In fact, the crisis communications plan is perhaps the most valuable component of the response plan.
In the modern era, crisis communications tend to take two major avenues. Each of these avenues reaches distinct audiences, allowing for efficient information sharing between the organization and its stakeholders.
Social media communication
It is no surprise that social media is one of the most valuable communication channels available to organizations facing a crisis. Posts on social media are fast, efficient, and easily shared across platforms.
When an organization experiences a crisis, the social media team can post a public response on channels like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, to name only a few of the dozens of social media channels. By doing so, this public relations strategy can help nip potential problems in the bud when a crisis hits. After all, people spend countless hours on social platforms — if you present information about a crisis right away on these channels, you can eliminate the speculation and guessing that can further damage your reputation.
Press releases and media interaction
Reputation management consists of numerous factors designed to establish, build, and protect an organization’s digital reputation. From a public relations perspective, traditional information sharing practices like press releases, media presentations, and press conferences all have the ability to share information during PR crises.
Media monitoring is another tactic that your PR team can handle. This gives the crisis management team the ability to spot emerging PR crises before they can affect the operations and reputation of the organization.
Tips for Responding to a PR Crisis
When a crisis happens, organizations without a plan in place often find themselves struggling to recover from the fallout. With a robust crisis plan ready to go, your organization has the tools and the strategies needed to respond quickly. Here are some communications tips for your marketing team that can help you thrive, even in the wake of a natural or industrial disaster:
- Accept responsibility for the incident if the PR crisis was the result of a scandal, corporate misdeed, or product defect. Do not deflect blame; own up to your mistakes and provide your customers with the information they need to know right away.
- Never respond negatively, regardless of the type or severity of the crisis. Negative responses tend to backfire, potentially damaging your reputation even further. Instead, focus on what information you need to share and when to let everyone know of your plan as the crisis unfolds. Positive responses should also be directed toward any negative review you receive on Google or third-party review platforms.
- Offer trauma counseling as part of your PR push. Customers and stakeholders negatively affected by a crisis can benefit from counseling. By offering it to these people, you demonstrate that you are aware of the challenges faced by a crisis and are providing essential services to help affected parties recover.
Contact OnlineReputation Today
Want to learn more about crisis management plans and the need for an effective PR crisis strategy? Call OnlinReputation today at 844-230-3803 to speak with reputation management professionals and expert crisis response planners.
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