In today’s world of 24-hour news cycles and the potential for any individual’s tweet, video, or image to go viral, all public relations professionals must understand the fundamentals of crisis management. By acting quickly, a public relations team can safeguard a company’s reputation and avert damaging headlines.
Today’s headlines are awash with stories about an airline’s handling of a passenger on an overbooked flight, an MNC’s much-maligned advertisement featuring Hollywood celebrity, rental car app’s diversity issues, and a slew of other public relations nightmares. As we’ve seen, many of these stories cast a negative light on the companies or employees mentioned – prompting communicators across industries to engage crisis management experts.
The best public relations professional is a well-prepared public relations professional. To that end, the following are some best practices for managing (or averting) a potential crisis before it spirals out of control.
Create a crisis management plan. Create a list of potential crisis scenarios and use them to inform and update your plan on a regular basis. Create messaging for reactive statement templates and talking points based on the most likely crises.
Simply having a plan is insufficient for crisis management; it must be practiced. Every one who would be involved in a crisis situation needs to understand the plan and their specific role. Frequently practice talking points with spokespeople.
If your business is in the wrong, admit it immediately. The public is far more forgiving if a business accepts responsibility for its actions early on, rather than if the business backtracks or is caught attempting to cover up a mistake. Similarly, avoid making definitive statements until you have all of the facts, but do not let this prevent you from communicating.
Consistency in messaging is critical during a crisis – this includes consistency in who delivers the messaging. Unless otherwise specified, the entire communications team and stakeholders should refrain from making comments to anyone. All inquiries should be directed to the spokesperson who has been authorized.
Act as if you’re on national television.
When a situation becomes heated, remember to maintain your composure and think twice before acting. Today, anyone with a smartphone can instantly record someone’s words or actions and send them to a news organization via something as simple as a tweet.
Take control of the situation
While addressing the issue and presenting a solution immediately during a crisis is commendable, the company must ensure that the messaging is consistent and actionable. Presenting a solution that will never be implemented is not beneficial to anyone, and the media will pick up on the insincere response. Ensure that you keep the press informed with transparent and approachable messaging.
Allow time for reflection
After the crisis has passed, reflect on what went right and wrong in terms of communications. As you plan for your next crisis, think about how you could have helped your target audience more effectively in the past.
While each crisis is unique, these steps provide a good starting point for managing any situation appropriately. Even under the best of circumstances, your business’s reputation may suffer, but taking these steps can help mitigate the damage. Moreover, you can join crisis management training in Melbourne to learn more details.