Six Steps to Surviving a PR Crisis
For most businesses, it’s not if a PR crisis will happen, but when. How you handle a public relations crisis will determine if you flourish or burn, making it imperative that organizations act quickly and effectively for a successful recovery. Here are six essential steps to help you put out the fire and get back on track – and maybe even get ahead.
1. Assemble the facts
The hardest part may be understanding you’re in the midst of a developing crisis. Before you do anything, make sure you know exactly what happened, how it’s happening, and all the possible repercussions. Accept reality, because the last thing you want is more surprises. Tell the media you’re looking into the situation, and will comment as soon as possible. Make sure no one else from the company talks in the meantime.
2. Have a Crisis Team Ready (or Assemble One Quickly)
When dealing with a PR crisis, you need a variety of experts to help handle different aspects of the situation. Ideally, your crisis management team will include: key executives, PR/Communications directors, department leaders, social media managers, legal experts, and a spokesperson.
3. Frame Your Narrative
When you’re in a crisis, your words matter more than ever. Develop a few clear, simple messages and get your story out to the media and the public quickly – before someone else tells it for you. It’s important to find a way to establish a connection with your clients or customers, and let them know you care about them. You should also establish how you are changing and moving forward. Make sure your messaging is precise and well thought-out. Ask your team: “Are we sending the right message – or inadvertently sending the wrong message?”
4. If It’s Your Fault, Take Responsibility, Apologize, and Move On
Admitting fault during a crisis is essential and necessary. Displaying accountability, empathy, and a willingness to do better will restore trust in your brand or business. And trying to cover up a crisis is sure to backfire. But don’t dwell on the apology. Make it truthful and sincere. Then move on to pointing out the positive actions your team is taking. There are some instances, however, where saying nothing is best – consult your legal team before taking responsibility in writing.
5. Be Proactive on Social Media
Social media can amplify a crisis and make it feel like it’s spinning even further out of control. It’s important to identify all external and internal communication channels and, when you can’t get out in front, at least mend the narrative: acknowledge the incident, accept responsibility, and apologize. It’s critical to have team members in place to monitor and respond to conversations taking place on social media.
6. Plan Ahead
Having a plan in place before a crisis strikes is key to effective crisis management. This does not mean immediately knowing the perfect solution to every possible scenario, but rather having a living, breathing document to guide you during a potential crisis. Your plan should detail team roles, how decisions will be made, and lay out how you will respond to commonly asked questions during a crisis.
Every crisis is stressful, and when you’re in the thick of it, it may feel like it will never end. But your business can recover from a PR crisis – and if you take the right steps, it can emerge stronger and more resilient than ever.
Marc Silverstein is Co-Founder, President & CEO of On The Marc Media.Download our step-by-step Crisis Plan
Listen to the podcast: Why Reporters Make the Best Crisis Managers