5 Steps for Managing a PR Crisis
Every company should prepare for the inevitable communications crisis – executive scandal, negative review, failed event, poorly thought out campaign, natural disaster or viral incident. When it hits, brands have to contend with the realities of the digital age: fake news, cyberattacks, defamatory rumors, and hackers.
You want a PR crisis communication plan and team in place, BEFORE you need them. In a crisis, every moment matters and having a team that knows how to respond in that stressful moment can be the difference between a forgetful shrug and ignominy.
Here are 5 steps your team can take to make sure you’re crisis-ready.
 Ready to Steady the Ship: A Team, A Plan, A Statement
Build a communications crisis response team and listen to them. Make it diverse. Run your crisis response messaging past them. A diverse team will give you different perspectives. Could your messages be misinterpreted? Will they fuel the fire?
Establish a chain of command and an approval process – CEO, marketing manager, legal, HR, whoever makes sense for the situation.
You can’t write messages to deal with a crisis before it happens, and each situation will be different. You can, however, write general statements to cover predicted situations. These will provide templates that can be modified to fit unpredicted crises.
Review your templates regularly. Update them and create new ones when relevant. Here’s an example:
“We’ve implemented our crisis response plan, which prioritizes the safety of the public and our team. We have begun a full investigation into the facts and will share those details on our website and social media as soon as we have them.”
Choose your channels before a crisis strikes. Remember to use multiple channels. Some people prefer email while others prefer a text message. Not everyone lives on social media. Multiple channels will be seen more widely.
 Monitor Your Brand Reputation for Advance Warning
You must monitor and identify what’s being said–think negative trends– so you can respond. Channels and audiences to watch include social media, the press, review sites, employees, customers, influencers, competitors, and others.
With a proper social listening strategy in place you will be able to predict the size and scope of your problem and mitigate any negative spikes.
Look to your influencer network for inspiration. They can be your knight in shining armor in a worst case scenario. Influencers aren’t only useful for marketing campaigns, they can also sway public opinion during a crisis.
The nature of the crisis will determine which individuals you should approach. During a crisis, monitoring feedback will help you fine-tune your response strategy.
 Say Nothing: But the Truth
Everyone is panicking. Do something! Everyone wants answers.
You have to remain calm.
Follow your crisis procedure. Don’t speak until you have all the facts.
Acknowledge your mistake, and take responsibility. Make it genuine, sensitive, and human. Be honest. Be vulnerable.
Don’t be scared to apologize. It’s the right thing to do and will quickly change the dynamic of the situation.
If you deny a negative situation, dismiss the issue, or blame others – you’ll make things worse when the truth comes out.
 Crisis Messaging: Factual, Informative, and Clear
With all the facts at your fingertips, you can frame your response. Find the most transparent and genuine way to tackle the situation:
● What happened.
● What you’ll do to solve it.
● What you’ll do in the future.
This is where the role of PR in crisis management becomes clear.The sooner you communicate your apology, explanation, and solution, the sooner people will stop trashing your brand.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
That’ll make the situation worse. Always respect the facts. There are people out there who may know more than you.
React with empathy.
Three to four messages is plenty. Adapt them according to your channel of choice.
People have to understand what happened and what they need to do. Don’t incite more panic. Show that you acknowledge that there is a crisis, explain your plan and what you’re going to do to prevent future incidents.
 Afterwards: Dissect & Learn
Your messages are out there and the public is responding to them on social media. You must continue monitoring the situation.
It can take time for things to return to normal. A crisis could start up again.
You have to be ready to give more statements to the press or answers on social media.
Use sentiment analysis to discover how consumers feel about what happened, your response, and the situation now.
Getting hit by a PR crisis is devastating. However, every cloud has a silver lining: You’ll learn from it and will be prepared to handle future challenges like a pro. A crisis need not be a disaster. You can even win praise for how you handle it. It can also help drive necessary changes and improvements to your workflow and organization.
Be prepared. “It won’t happen” is shortsighted, naive, and unrealistic.
Talkwalker is a listening and analytics company that empowers brands and agencies to optimize their communication efforts. We provide companies with an easy-to-use platform to protect, measure and promote their brand worldwide. Talkwalker’s analytics platform uses AI-powered technology to monitor and analyze online conversations in real-time.
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