My crisis PR agency, 5WPR was pleased today to read the announcement that Liberty Mutual Insurance has added a crisis management endorsement to its new commercial lead umbrella policy form –It’s great that insurance companies recognize the vast importance of good crisis communications.
In today’s world, bad communications can cost companies millions – or even billions of dollars. As Liberty’s spokesperson said when announcing the policy “Sometimes a situation is clearly a crisis that needs immediate action.”
Working in PR is often like working the ER night shift on a 100-degree summer weekend. You never know what’s going to happen next. Product recall. Sexual harassment. Not wanting to rat to the police. Involvement in a shooting. Bankruptcy. Corporate merger. Affair with a secretary. Fraud. Government investigation. Protests at corporate headquarters. We have worked through all of these situations and more with our clients. I’ve helped major corporations, small businesses, and celebrities get through a fair number of troubling times, from financial scandals at a Fortune 100 company, to countless indictments and accusations, to arrests at New Jersey construction companies, to trials and legal proceedings for celebrities like Lil’ Kim, as well as average Joes.
One key lesson learned from these experiences is that even though there are times when you can get away with burying your head in the sand, a crisis that brings media attention isn’t one of them. Drop what you’re doing and address crisis situations as they happen; it’s impossible to sit behind a computer and “outwork” catastrophes. Your entire business, or your whole life, can be changed by one article or one rumor, true or untrue.
The court of public opinion doesn’t wait – and anyone involved in a crisis must understand the need to respond quickly to the media.
Of course, Liberty’s announcement was also good Public Relations by their PR agency – Liberty’s policyholders can use the $50,000 in crisis management work only at Weber Shandwick, the PR firm that represents Liberty – and its doubtful Weber has ever taken any PR clients for such a low fee – let alone a crisis PR client. But nonetheless, following in the footsteps of Chubb who last year offered up to $300K in crisis PR services in its corporate policies and other insurance companies, this is good for business and good for all of us in Public Relations.
As Warren Buffett has said “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, 1 of the 25 largest US PR Agencies, and author of “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations” an Amazon best selling Public Relations book