10 Must-Haves Of Every PR Crisis Plan
If industries across the globe learned anything from the pandemic, it’s this: Communication is key, but a crisis plan is critical to survival.
Almost every business or organization, whether it’s the local diner or a big-box retailer, will face a PR crisis at some point. When tensions are high, brands often make mistakes — especially when they’re not prepared. A staff mishap can go viral in minutes, which can make a respected company the laughing stock of its audience or cause them to lose their customer base altogether. Getting in front of the issue and addressing it head-on is one way to soften the blow.
Even if you have zero idea of what kind of crisis to expect, having a clear and comprehensive crisis plan in place can save you from sleepless nights and a blow to your bottom line in the future. Crisis PR should be part of your company’s strategy in a world where bad news spreads like wildfire.
What Is A PR Crisis?
When your business, brand or product is tied to a negative event that ignites negative public attention, you are officially involved in a public relations crisis. Examples include public employee faux pas, lawsuits, product injuries, criminal charges, suspicious business practices and more.All are a potential death sentence to your business and brand. This is why you must get damage control underway, pronto. Doing so separates your business from the incident and limits the potential for a long-term negative impact to your reputation.
A PR scandal is likely not in your five-year plan. Even so, it is your responsibility to plan for the worst so your brand gets ahead of any potentially negative stories. A thoughtful crisis plan helps turn things around to defend your company’s reputation and show audiences how your business stands out from the rest with class, authenticity and transparency.
Examples Of A PR Crisis
There are endless reasons a PR crisis could occur — and they happen every day.
A prime example of a modern PR crisis is when networks are hacked and consumer data is stolen. Facebook had to deal with privacy issues related to Cambridge Analytica, and those issues could have affected the 2016 presidential election.
In 2016, an Uber driver in Michigan was charged with multiple slayings in one terrifying night of chaos and terror. In dozens of news stories and the suspect’s murder trail, the Uber company name was mentioned over and over again. This cast a dark shadow on the rideshare company, even though it was an isolated incident.
Extreme cases? No question. But they are reminders that when crisis situations happen, it’s important to let the public know what company protocols are in place and what adjustments are being made to prevent similar situations in the future.
Damage control is essential when you are facing a PR crisis. Make sure you and your staff are equipped to act swiftly and have the right strategies in place to reduce the negative impact as much as possible.
What Impact Does A PR Crisis Have On Your Business?
If you stay silent, a PR crisis could cause irreversible damage to your business. This could translate to reduced sales, lower revenues and a tarnished public reputation.
Large corporations generally have access to everything they need to help avert a PR crisis, including their in-house PR teams. For startups, or small-to-medium-sized businesses, it can be much more challenging.
A PR agency can act as an extension of your existing marketing and communications team —, and it’s worth the time and expense. Why? Ongoing negative reviews, less consumer demand and negative social media responses can have a major impact on your bottom line — and even cause a company to go out of business.
Your PR Crisis Plan Must Include These 10 Things
You now know your business needs a PR crisis plan, and it’s time to prepare for whatever unsavory scenarios might come your way. But…where to start? First, think of some potential crisis risks your business might face, and how you could address them.
As you develop your crisis plan, consider the following 10 tips to help you look ahead, expect the unexpected, and gain a little peace of mind.
- Form an ongoing PR crisis response team. Choose your most knowledgeable and press-ready team members and make sure they all know their role in the event of an emergency. This team should meet at least quarterly, so they are familiar with each other if and when a crisis arises. Update and change your materials, responses, and procedures as necessary. Keep your plan current.
- Create a backup PR crisis management plan. Know how to proceed with damage control, and assign active roles and responsibilities.
- Analyze your company’s state of readiness. Are you ready for the worst-case scenario? If not, think of all the possibilities and create key messaging around them.
- Review your company’s record. Look at the good and the bad. Take any past crises into consideration. Is there a history of employees violating rules? Does the company have a proven track record for customer satisfaction? Where are your key pain points?
- Check your company’s social media status. Make sure you have the people and tools in place to monitor all social media accounts. Can you quickly respond to any misinformation or negative allegations?
- Build relationships with key stakeholders. Have contacts with local and national media, establish relationships with local governments and take an active, positive role in the potentially affected communities.
- Hold regular PR and crisis training sessions. You want any employee who could end up being interviewed to know the essentials of a positive response. Make sure every employee goes through some level of media training, or knows the protocols for handling a press inquiry.
- Set up crisis simulations and respond to them. Pretend you have a PR crisis and have the team promptly and properly respond to the situation, then assess the response and correct any missteps or issues.
- Seek the help of a PR pro. Have a trained PR professional review your plans to ensure they’re iron-clad and account for all possible issues.
- Establish content rules. Make sure your team follows that policy without hesitation. By establishing a comprehensive policy, you can rest assured that you will not face security issues and legal problems because of blog entries or social media posts.
What Not To Do During A PR Crisis
When there is a PR crisis, you should be truthful. You should never lie, exaggerate or try to sugar-coat the situation. You must take responsibility, be accountable and transparent and get ahead of the story. You want the public to trust that you are honest, and that you are not trying to lie or cover up the situation. You should not panic, but instead take new developments in stride and be attentive to the situation.
What To Do After A PR Crisis
After you have experienced a PR crisis, you should regroup. Assess the situation and your response. What changes should you make to your company protocols? What were you most pleased with? What would you do differently next time?
Be sure to get the dedicated PR crisis response team together to recap the situation and the response, as well as hash out the pros and cons of the crisis outcome and identify any necessary changes to consider for future events.
By properly discussing and planning, you can prepare your team for just about anything, and ensure that when the time comes that you must respond, you have the best strategy in place. Throughout the lifetime of a business or a brand, there are many PR crisis scenarios that you may face — and you must be ready for all of them.
If you have a business, you should expect that there will be obstacles and challenges. It’s imperative to have a PR crisis preparedness plan in place with a strong team to follow through with their responsibilities.
It is also important to have every employee undergo training, so they will know how to respond when a crisis does arise. You want to make sure you have everyone on the same page, ready to handle their roles during whatever challenging times might arise. With the right preparations, you can make sure your business survives and comes out ahead after a PR crisis.
Trust Relations Team