Crisis communications is a key aspect to public relations. Crises will come, and, usually, they will come unexpectedly. But that doesn’t mean you should not be prepared. In fact, if you want to achieve the optimal resolution to any PR crisis, you need to have a plan in place before the crisis erupts.
But what should that plan look like? Every crisis, even if it seems similar, is different. And every company will have a best way to approach a certain crisis. With so many variables that are unknown until the crisis happens, how can you put yourself in a position to protect your brand reputation before the incident?
The answer to that question is to create and maintain a PR crisis checklist and to have a number of specific communications tools in place and ready to deploy.
Create a Pivot Table
A pivot table may sound like a piece of gymnastics equipment or a carpentry tool, but it’s actually a document consisting of a series of “if-then” questions that will help management make smart decisions at the onset of a crisis. A pivot table should address who talks, when they speak, and what they say, as well as the general response to a series of general crises.
Plan to Develop a Plan
Too many times, when a crisis happens, people have no idea what to do next, so they do nothing or they say the wrong thing and make the crisis even worse. To avoid making this mistake, you need to have a plan in place for step one in your crisis response.
You need to know who will circle the wagons, assess the situation, and prepare the first statement and the next move. By deciding on roles and responsibilities without the stress of a PR crisis hanging over your head, you end up making wiser, better decisions. The type of plan is up to you. You might want a written document, a grid or graphic plan, or a combination of both. The key takeaway is to know who should be doing what immediately after a crisis.
Educate Your Team
In any crisis, it’s not just the top decision makers that need to be involved in crisis response. Every member of your team needs to know what to do and say – and what NOT to do and say – in the event of a crisis.
This step involves more than just having a to-do list. You need to prepare, to plan, and to practice your crisis response. Team members need to be able to respond, rather than react, in the event of a crisis. They need to know how to manage communication and keep from escalating the crisis accidentally.
Positive Brand Placement as a Preventative Step
One of the best ways to prepare for a crisis before it happens is to have plenty of brand goodwill built up in the marketplace. If customers know and appreciate you as a positive, connective brand – if what you do is important to them or if they view it favorably – you are in a much better starting position to deal with any crisis.
This step requires ongoing market connection, customer education, and a strong and steady media presence. It takes work and investment, but it’s well worth it when crisis strikes.
-5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian