Sarah Whelband | How to prepare for a potential PR crisis
In PR terms, a crisis is any situation that threatens the reputation of your company, usually brought on by negative media attention. These situations can be any kind of legal dispute, theft, accident, fire, flood or manmade disaster. It can also be a situation where in the eyes of the media or general public your company did not react to a situation in the appropriate manner.
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How to prepare for a potential PR crisis

19 Aug How to prepare for a potential PR crisis

In PR terms, a crisis is any situation that threatens the reputation of your company, usually brought on by negative media attention. These situations can be any kind of legal dispute, theft, accident, fire, flood or manmade disaster. It can also be a situation where in the eyes of the media or general public your company did not react to a situation in the appropriate manner. You could potentially be faced with a crisis at any point, so it’s important to prepare for the unexpected. If handled correctly the damage can be minimised – the goal is ultimately to protect the integrity and reputation of your brand.

You can never plan for every eventuality but putting a crisis PR plan together will help you feel prepared and allow you to react quickly. You’ll thank your lucky stars that you’ve put in the groundwork if something happens to you.

So, what should you do to get a plan into place? You’ll need to consider doing the following:

  • A full assessment of any potential risks that your business could face. Ensure you have the necessary policies, procedures, systems and practices in place, all regulations that your business must adhere to
  • Once these risks have been identified, you should draft statements about each one, for example, if you run a restaurant, and one of your customers comes down with food poisoning, then prepare a few lines detailing your response to the situation, sympathy for anyone that has been harmed (without admitting liability if you don’t know all the facts) and how you are handling it, what’s going to happen next, etc. These will of course need to be adapted in the event of a crisis, but if you have an agreed positioning that has gone through sign off with all senior people, then you will be able to react quicker
  • This should form part of a crisis pack, which should consist of:
    • Background information about the company
    • Contact details of the person who will be fielding all media calls
    • Information about the spokesperson/people
    • Contact details for local hotels should you need to hold a press conference at short notice
    • A plan of what key roles are needed in a crisis and which member of staff will take on which role. Also reserves in case someone is on holiday
    • Facility for a customer helpline (if relevant)
    • Facility to update your website out of hours with important information for customers
    • A process which will keep all stakeholders informed of what is going on; staff, shareholders, clients, industry associations, representative bodies, etc.
  • Once this is in place, you then need to communicate the plan, so that everyone is clear on what will happen and who’s responsible for what
  • Don’t forget about the aftermath – once a crisis has died down, you may need to take steps to rebuild part of the business. Consider how you might communicate the steps you are taking to rectify any wrongs to your key audiences
  • Finally, you will need to review – learning from a crisis is invaluable.  You should evaluate your plan after a crisis to assess its effectiveness and how improvements can be made.

The aim of the crisis plan is to enable you to make decisions and take swift action rather than being bogged down with the nitty gritty that will distract you from managing the crisis itself.  What’s crucial in a crisis is tell it all, tell it fast and tell the truth. If you do this you have done all you can to minimise the situation.

If you’d like some advice on how to prepare for a crisis, then get in touch, I can help you prepare for the worst even though we hope you don’t have to use it!

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