February 9, 2023

PR crisis management: tips for handling a crisis effectively

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In this blog, the V Formation PR team explains how to effectively manage a PR crisis and outlines the key components of a crisis management strategy.

Issues and crises happen. You cannot control a crisis; you can only hope to manage it.

Every company – big or small, commercial, or not-for-profit – should be prepared for a public relations crisis, whether this is triggered by a business restructuring, employee issues, a workplace accident, or a data breach.

It makes good sense to include a crisis management strategy in your overall business plan and anticipate the kind of potential threats your business could one day face, to ensure you are ‘good to go’ if a difficult news issue arises.

The secret of crisis management is not good vs bad; it’s preventing the bad from getting worse. Effective and planned communications are key for any organisation faced with a crisis and give you the best chance of minimising the immediate and long-term effects on corporate reputation.

With this in mind, your approach to a crisis management strategy should be underpinned by honesty and transparency, to maintain integrity and show you truly care about what has happened.

PR crisis management: key things to consider

  • Scope out the situation– anticipate and address all the possible issues from a local and national angle, and all the associated issues. You can’t alter what has happened, but you can influence perceptions and stop it from escalating.
  • Put systems in place – crisis management is much more than just issuing a press or holding statement. Other systems must be put in place to ensure that all staff understand the procedure as far as the press and potential inbound media enquiries are concerned, and a plan must be agreed on the information to be divulged and how this will be communicated to the media, shareholders, stakeholders, clients, staff and so on. Record the names, dates, and media details of all inbound enquiries from the press.
  • Manage the risk– you should understand the potential risks posed by the crisis and respond accordingly. Agree your key messages but monitor these, and evaluate and fine tune as necessary. Plan your contingencies – including your crisis management team and how they are to be contacted; set up an operations room and procedure document. Agree within your team who will be the media spokespeople, and make sure to factor in their experience of dealing with the media and if they’ve undergone media training. Brief them in with the agreed positioning and messages, to ensure all external and internal comms remain consistent.
  • Consider competencies – ensure your crisis management team and spokespeople include individuals that add gravitas, credibility, expertise, and support, from the CEO and technical experts to legal advisers, PR and social media expertise, and the necessary administrative support.
  • Set the tone – agree the facts and tone of voice of what is to be said, and by whom, and ensure all internal staff are briefed on the procedure for communicating with all third parties, including the media, clients, customers, and other business stakeholders. Remember to bring your social media channels into the plan and ensure your staff are fully briefed on how to deal with any direct queries or comments online.
  • Be ready– it is key that you are prepared to communicate what exactly has happened, how it happened, and what you have done to control and contain it. Express concern, how preventable the situation is, and what the business is doing to ensure it never happens again.

The golden rules of managing a PR crisis are to prepare thoroughly, establish the facts, avoid a knee-jerk reaction (but respond promptly), and do not respond negatively, be defensive, or blame others.

It is important to monitor all online and offline media interest, mentions, and coverage using real-time alerts, such as Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts. And when the dust has settled, you should conduct a thorough and honest review of how the situation has been reported in the media and the associated impact on customers and stakeholders.

Speak to us

V Formation has worked with businesses of all sizes and in various industries to anticipate the kind of threats they could one day face, and give them the tools, knowledge and confidence to implement a crisis management plan if the time comes.

For help and advice with producing a crisis management strategy or responding to a PR crisis, contact the V Formation PR experts here or call 0115 667 0131.


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