Whenever a brand or company seems to be on the receiving end of any damaging or negative publicity, it is clear that there is a public relations crisis happening. These are serious events that are very disruptive for any organization, no matter how big or small. Additionally, thanks to the prevalence, as well as the popularity, of social media use, it’s easy for a PR crisis to spread globally in a manner of minutes.

While back in the day, the only notable reasons for a PR crisis used to be corporate scandals or natural disasters, these days, a crisis can happen for much lower stakes. Organizations have to be able to combat hackers, rumors, fake news, and even cyberattacks.

PR Crisis Degrees

A PR crisis from a first degree is anything that has the potential to become a complete disaster to the point where the organization is going to have trouble walking away without any damage. These types of crises include any workplace harassment situations, corporate impropriety or even product recalls.

Next, a PR crisis from a second degree is anything that is not as serious as the previously mentioned situations, but still shouldn’t be ignored. These situations include any complaints from customers that should be dealt with promptly before they can escalate any further and bring the situation to a crisis of a first degree.

Finally, a PR crisis from a third-degree is anything that could potentially damage an organization’s reputation simply by association. If a competitor or anyone in a related industry to the organization is undergoing a PR crisis that could even tangentially tarnish the brand’s reputation falls into this category. This is why it is important for organizations to monitor social media channels and provide statements as fast as possible to create distance.

Avoiding a PR crisis

The only way for an organization to outright avoid getting itself in a PR crisis is to not exist in the first place. However, there are always ways to minimize all of the risks when dealing with a PR crisis.

Expect the unexpected

It is never easy to completely prepare for a PR crisis, and that’s why it’s important to always keep track of everything that is happening within the industry and to respond accordingly. This also involves keeping track of what the employees, as well as the customers, are talking about on their social media profiles, to get ahead of any crisis and have an easier time predicting an outcome.

Set content rules

Any messages on social channels, in interviews, press releases or blog posts need to be checked and approved before being published. This includes going over the content for factual information, offensive remarks and even spelling or grammar errors.
Be swift, but don’t rush

Whenever there’s a PR crisis developing, it’s important to take a moment before crafting a response. However, that moment shouldn’t take too long as other outlets or individuals can easily take control of the narrative during that time. Avoid getting emotional or the situation is going to get worse.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.