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Due to the unpredictability of international events, many modern organizations are trying to anticipate and prevent crises.

In other words, whether you are aware of it or not, your organization is exposed to a wide range of unplanned risks that might significantly damage your reputation and have a terrible effect on revenue, customer acquisition, loyalty, and other critical business objectives. In these situations, a good plan for handling PR crises can save or at least lessen the damage.

Having a crisis management public relations plan in place might be the difference between survival and failure for a business. Managing a crisis effectively requires forethought, and that’s where public relations crisis management rises to the occasion. If you hire a reputable public relations firm before a crisis, you can significantly lessen unfavorable press’s impact on your company.

But before diving into the details, let’s start with the basics.

What is crisis management in public relations?

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The most basic definition of crisis management in public relations is detecting an organization’s and its stakeholders’ vulnerability so you can undertake an effective response to control adverse outcomes.

A public relations crisis is a negative situation that will affect most companies at some point. An unfavorable incident, such as a series of negative reviews or a major leadership scandal, can substantially influence a business’ brand. Nobody thinks you will be flawless in such situations, but the public anticipates that you will be human and judge you based on how you respond to challenging circumstances.

Consequently, a PR crisis occurs when any bad business-related event or report develops traction in the public eye. It may result from unsafe procedures, a customer accident, or problems within the company’s ranks. Resolving public relations issues is crucial since they can damage the public perception of your company.

What role does PR play in crisis management?

During a crisis, the primary purpose of a public relations department is to notify all parties involved about the present circumstances, anticipated concerns, and planned responses. The initial type of message the outside world will receive must be part of your well-prepared crisis management plan.

The objective of this generic statement is to reestablish confidence in your business and provide you with time to evaluate the situation.

The company’s PR and marketing staff serve as the organization’s initial line of defense. The extent to which you survive the crisis depends primarily on how skillfully you tackle challenges using PR crisis management tools and services.

Public Relations agencies that offer online reputation management (ORM) complement your in-house staff, offer the following:

  • access to any trustworthy expertise you may need,
  • help you keep the public updated
  • choose the right traditional and emerging communication channels.

It also helps you develop plans for handling a crisis, find your best spokespeople and brief them ahead of time, choose the best ways to talk to your audience, and quickly analyze and respond to their comment threads throughout a crisis.

Getting ready for a crisis is hard because it’s hard to know exactly what the problem will entail. Therefore, a group of public relations experts will plan for various scenarios and devise responses to a variety of threats.

7 Main Elements of PR Crisis Management 

  1. Don’t Lose Your Cool

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Experts say you shouldn’t lose your cool when planning and carrying out your media response strategy amid a PR crisis. Even though the opposite party made an utterly incorrect claim about your firm, it’s always a bad idea to reply harshly or point fingers at the complainant for the problem. You ought to think logically and leave any feelings on the back burner.

  1. Take Time to Respond

When dealing with a public relations problem, remember that timing is everything, which is why your organization must have a crisis response team on hand before a crisis develops. You should only respond after you know all the details. It could hurt your reputation even more if you lose your temper and have to take back what you said or say something different. On the other hand, taking too long to answer won’t help you either.

The business must respond swiftly and speak with a unified voice, which is difficult when multiple individuals comment on its behalf. The most successful teams comprise internal experts who have inside knowledge of the company and outside crisis management PR companies who can view the situation from a journalist’s perspective.

  1. Train Your Employees Well

A protocol is essential for the efficient management of every crisis communications effort. Every employee on your response team needs to know what they’re responsible for and whether they should be reactive or proactive in handling the media during crises.

Regardless of the public relations strategy adopted during a crisis, the company must inform all potential spokespeople of the protocol to follow should they speak on the matter. Key stakeholders, employees, and board members must know who will address the press and where to direct questions.

This will prevent the corporation from defending any unauthorized statements from employees.

  1. Assess the Situation

Examining how consumers perceive your brand after a PR crisis is vital. You must monitor incoming and outgoing interactions to respond to follow-up questions or issues.

Evaluate the management’s and your staff’s approach to the incident. Scrutinize what went wrong and what needs to change to avoid a repeat. Additionally, concentrate on regaining your credibility following the incident. Change the subject to something favorable about your brand.

One must exercise extreme care and focus when interacting with customers or business partners. It is also essential to monitor internet conversations regarding your company. A study by Moz found that having even one negative post on the first page of SERPs can cause a company to lose 22% of its customers.

  1. Develop an Effective Plan of Action

You already have the necessary holding statements to buy you extra time. It’s time to put together the last preparations for the big game plan.

Your reaction will vary depending on your industry. Still, you have to follow some general rules of thumb.

To begin, tell the truth. You naturally want to limit the fallout, but ignoring the crisis situation, placing blame elsewhere, or providing insufficient information can only worsen matters.

Accepting responsibility for your mistakes demonstrates that you are a mature business able to rectify the damage.

  1. Look for Influencers

When your business’s reputation is on the line, you need to find advocates who can defend your services, products, and brand.

So, you must consider working with the right influencers who could tilt the general public’s perspective in your brand’s favor throughout and following the crisis.

Remember, selecting the most qualified influencer can make or break your campaign. The most relevant influencers are likely already discussing your brand.

You must still vet each potential candidate. Check out what kind of content they post, how people interact with their posts, and the social media channels they use. Use this information to decide on the influencer to work with to promote your brand.

  1. Analyze PR Crisis Management Plan

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Photo by Headway on Unsplash

The final stage is just as crucial as the preceding ones. Keep in mind that failures are excellent learning opportunities.

Therefore, it is crucial to assess the Public Relations crisis management strategy. Some questions you should consider include the following:

  • What did you execute well?
  • What components failed?
  • What could you do better?

Now is the time to assess how well your PR crisis response team operated.

  • Do the members require extra instruction?
  • Should you switch up the team’s responsibilities?
  • Add new experts?

Examine the reaction to the public relations communications you’ve distributed.

  • Could you improve anything about them?
  • Use alternative distribution channels.
  • Modify the tone or the language?

By evaluating PR crisis management, you can learn what you need to know about improving your PR crisis strategy.

When and how to react to the public relations crisis?

First, you must recognize what to do and when to do it.

Therefore, let’s begin with “when.”

Not every negative comment is a PR disaster that needs your CEO’s attention and could harm your firm’s image.

You can employ a triage approach to evaluate the magnitude of the possible PR crisis. Early evaluation of the issue will allow you to control the situation and avoid wasting money on unnecessary procedures.

You must assign the appropriate color to every circumstance you deem dangerous:

  1. Green Tag

This tag is used when your organization doesn’t need to do anything right away. For instance, a crisis affecting one of your competitors does not permanently damage your company.

  1. Orange Tag

The orange label is for potential threats to your company and the confidence of your customers in your brand.

Consider the impact of a single negative comment in the context of numerous favorable ones. Monitor the situation, but hold off on contacting your PR crisis team for now.

  1. Red Tag 

Red is used when immediate and decisive action is necessary. Your company’s reputation and revenue are at stake, and you need to mobilize your public relations staff.

Let’s now discuss the ‘how.’

You undoubtedly have an effective public relations plan in place. What about the strategy that will enable you to manage PR crises?

The best approach to managing a crisis is to have a solid public relations crisis plan.

Effective Strategies for PR Crisis Management 

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Photo by Werner Pfennig

  1. Preparation is a Must

The unfortunate truth is that there is a likelihood that a disaster will befall your firm in the future.

The good news is that preparing can lessen the impact on your company by developing a crisis communications strategy in advance. New employees working for your organization amid a public relations issue may benefit from the crisis communication plan.

  1. Media Monitoring

The issue will likely start online, using communication channels outside your control. The worst-case situation is when the audience recognizes the crisis before the public relations staff does.

Unnoticed public relations disasters can quickly snowball and harm your company’s bottom line.

To keep an online crisis from escalating, you must be mindful of what people say about your brand or product.

Due to the variety of online channels, it is challenging to trace online brand mentions with media monitoring tools.

  1. Relevant Filters

If you are tracking mentions connected to a giant firm or an essential product, you will receive a lot of mentions.

Here is the list of filters that will assist you in making sense of these mentions:

  • Date
  • Interactions
  • Country
  • Public profile
  • Domain
  • Number of visits
  • Sentiments(likes, dislikes, etc)

What kinds of filters can help you handle a crisis?

Undoubtedly, you must consider the quantity, nature, frequency of interactions, and the number of visitors.

This will enable you to determine the rate of online news circulation and if the information resonates with others.

Using the domain filter, you can identify the earned channels where your business is renowned. This doesn’t imply you need to commit resources to build a profile there, but it suggests keeping tabs on the conversation’s direction.

You can find influential people currently discussing your firm by filtering by their public profiles.

  1. Social Media Sentiment Analysis

 

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Using social listening tools, you can find out how people feel about your brand when they talk about it online.

Your social media team will learn whether mentions of your brand are positive, negative, or neutral.

Combining media monitoring with sentiment analysis and mention volume can yield the best results.

A surge in the number of mentions and the widespread unfavorable sentiment suggests the onset of a public relations crisis. Keep a keen eye on the KPIs so you can fix any issues before they get reported on in the press.

Conversely, an increase in positively marked references indicates that you’re doing an excellent job!

  1. Notifications Overview

To stop a PR crisis from worsening, you must know about it.

Therefore, a comprehensive notification system including key personnel and stakeholders is essential. Your alerting system may include the following:

  • Email alerts
  • Slack notifications
  • In-app notifications

Role of Crisis Response Team in Preventing PR Situation

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Public relations experts are crucial during crises because they facilitate communication and resolve issues. Public relations’ fundamental function in crisis management is to disseminate information when a crisis hits, potential risks, and mitigation strategies to those who need to stay informed.

Therefore, the organization must drastically modify its course to endure a crisis. The right PR firm and PR professional help your firm right the ship and navigate these difficult times.

Conclusion

Nobody anticipates experiencing a PR nightmare. However, significant mishaps can and do arise in business. Crisis management public relations shields your firm from the harmful effects of these incidents, enabling you to transition as smoothly as possible.

Learn from reputable professionals about the functions of PR crisis communication and management, and make sure you have a solid plan for the future.

Nevertheless, your best option is to seek guidance from top crisis management firms, such as Museandmotif. Our company comprises strategic thinkers who work relentlessly to keep your company’s progress on track in good and bad times. We can create the right online business reputation management approach for your organization to use in times of PR crisis.

References

https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-monitoring-tools/

https://www.coursera.org/articles/social-listening

https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/resources/glossary/brand-sentiment#:~:text=Positive%20or%20negative%20feelings%20towards%20a%20brand%20or%20business.

 

Joscelin Kwek

Joscelin Kwek, founder of Muse & Motif, is a PR expert with nearly 20 years of experience in brand communications and investor relations. She launched her Singapore-based agency during the pandemic, focusing on digital marketing, data analytics, and sustainability. Known for her strategic thinking and crisis management, Joscelin is committed to community support, dedicating efforts to pro-bono work and environmental conservation. Her blogs offer insights into effective PR strategies and industry leadership.