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, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.