Put Out the Fire – What to do in a PR Crisis - KM&A

Put Out the Fire – What to do in a PR Crisis

Picture these scenarios:

1. Your company just fired one of the highest performing executives and local media just caught wind.

2. You just found out that you’re involved in a scandal and a journalist just reached out to get a comment about the situation.

A crisis is inevitable and sometimes you have to be prepared ahead of time on how you respond to certain situations. Not only are crises serious, but they can also be extremely disruptive and destructive to an organization. With the rise of social media, crises can spread in an instant, as viral interactions are escalating now more than ever.

If you find yourself or your organization in a crisis, there are a few questions to ask yourself:

1. Will this issue critically affect my company’s workflow or send the board into turmoil?

2. Will our bottom line be disrupted?

3. Will brand reputation be damaged?

4. Who is generating negative publicity? Random consumers or key stakeholders?

Here’s the thing – not every issue is always a crisis. Sometimes certain situations are just a temporary annoyance. The most important factor in making sure that you’re not overreacting is utilizing the PR individuals in your organization to provide the best counsel on what to do.

What to Do in a Crisis

First things first: get the facts. When a crisis occurs, it can feel like everything is chaotic and that everyone wants actions and answers. It is extremely vital that everyone breathes, follows procedure and that no one speaks until you’ve consulted with those who are educated on certain crises. Cue your internal public relations practitioner.

The first thing they will do is look at every single angle of the situation, as well as monitor everything that is on the news and social media to finalize the best practices on how to handle the situation.

PR 101

Never say ‘no comment’. Ever. Saying ‘no comment’ actually makes you look guilty and unprepared. Something better to say if you do not have sufficient information is “I do not have sufficient information to respond at the moment. I will issue an update as soon as possible.”

In any crisis, it is important to accept responsibility and apologize. As painful as it may be, telling the truth is key, lying will only make it worse in the long run.

As you build the messages after the initial news has been released, honesty is the best policy. Avoid false promises, which can feel good at the moment, but could lead to negative press. Another great way to build your message is to be reactive beyond a statement, be empathetic to those your crisis-affected and be concise.

After the messaging is developed, make sure your message is distributed to the key audiences that your PR practitioner has identified. They also will share the best platforms to make sure the message gets to everyone efficiently.

A crisis always involves an active waiting period, so utilizing analytics and listening tools will help keep you up to speed. In this stage, take time to regroup with your team post-crisis. What did your team do well? What can be improved in your crisis plan? How will you recover your credibility?

Avoiding a Future Crisis

After surviving a crisis, an out of sight out of mind perspective is not helpful. Take time to look at why the crisis happened and how to prevent a future crisis.

The thought of another crisis can seem scary, but here are a few steps we take to prevent future problems.

The thought of another crisis can seem scary, but here are a few steps we take to prevent future problems.

1. Establish guidelines for everything you post, from social media to press releases

2. Proofread

3. If you have any doubt, don’t do it

4. Always expect the unexpected

5. Create a crisis response team

6. Have a PR crisis management plan and use it

Do you feel a little overwhelmed? At KM&A we want to help. Give us a call and find out how our communications team can take care of your future PR and communication needs.  

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