What to do When a Crisis Strikes

Public Relations (PR) disasters can and regularly do strike businesses and companies of all sizes across any industry.

In today’s 24/7 news cycle, information can travel around the country and globe instantaneously and it’s quite possible you could find yourself in need of crisis management.

Issues you might require assistance with include product failures, social media or marketing blunders, inappropriate comments, illegal activity, accidents, incidents, financial issues, natural disasters and everything in between.

All businesses should have a protocol in place for dealing with a crisis situation. Planning now will help prevent any future situation getting out of hand and minimise damage to your reputation.

These best practices will help you implement and deploy effective crisis response.

Assess the situation – quickly and calmly

Yes, you need to act quickly in a crisis, but there’s little point jumping into action without first having all the facts. If you jump to conclusions, you risk making the situation worse. Before you act, work quickly to determine exactly what the situation is. This process will also help you decide how urgent your issue is and how quickly a response is required.

Get your team together

Once you know what’s happening, get all relevant team members together to make key decisions:

1) Agree on a unified message and medium to respond e.g. media release or social media comment. Think carefully – a Twitter response might be acceptable for a flippant social media comment. It’s not appropriate for a health and safety issue or major incident where a media release is likely more suited.

2) Decide who is going to deliver your response i.e. who will be the public voice/face of this situation. In most crises, the public response should come from the most senior person in the business. This displays leadership and shows you’re taking the issue seriously. It’s quite okay, though for the senior leader (e.g. CEO) to hand over to a company expert to answer technical questions or provide very detailed information to media or other stakeholders.

3) Assign someone to handle the situation e.g. take calls from journalists, answer questions from stakeholders and monitor media/social media. Everything should channel through this person to ensure consistency and to help you keep control of the issue. It’s important to make sure everyone in the business knows who to refer inquiries to and not to make any comment of their own (verbally or on social media).

Act swiftly – be transparent

Now you know what’s happening and how you’re going to handle it, it’s vital you act swiftly to publicly respond with all relevant and verified information - and in the right tone.

It’s best if you can respond ahead of the crisis becoming public. This gives you the best chance of front-footing the issue and taking control of the narrative. It means any resulting news coverage is more likely to contain accurate, balanced information. It’s very hard to regain control of the message if you’re too slow to act.

Transparency and authenticity are key. If a mistake was made, say so. If an apology is required, issue one. Show empathy. Share all relevant information. Outline potential solutions and intended next steps.

This is your opportunity to take ownership and demonstrate a clear commitment to a quick resolution. Including this information from the outset can help you regain loss of trust and credibility and repair your reputation.  

Ongoing responses

If you’re dealing with an unfolding or highly changeable situation, you’ll likely need to implement a plan that enables you to update media and other key stakeholders in a timely manner (e.g. every 30 or 60 minutes). This helps to minimise uncertainty and reduce the spread of inaccurate information, while helping you to keep control of the narrative.

This best practice advice will set you in good stead should you find yourself in a crisis, but don’t hesitate to bring in the experts. Harvey Cameron will help you develop and deploy a fast, effective response to help you minimise damage to your reputation.



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