crisis vs mishap
crisis vs mishap

There is a difference between a brand or company making a simple customer-service blunder, a company having a vast communications crisis. However, the line between can become fine if a situation is not handled correctly. Even the most minor customer service-related errors can turn into massive problems that get media and public attention.

Each needs to be navigated differently 

If an incident is a communications crisis, it will be severe enough to impact more than the markets and public relations departments. Leadership may need to make a public statement and be part of the crisis communication plan. More significant, established brands can often deal with the fallout from a crisis because they have a good reputation, staff, and experts available to them. Emerging or independent, smaller companies can be killed if they don’t appropriately address a pr crisis.

There is not a single example of a PR crisis 

They can happen due to not enough inventory of a highly anticipated product, a poorly-thought-out tweet, or an individual who is part of a brand or company and who’s behaving poorly, either on or off the clock. The internet is forever; degrading, rude, or dismissive responses to customers will live on, even if the company deletes them. And deleting poorly worded statements and social media posts are often seen as a wrong PR decision and can lead to a PR crisis. 

A PR crisis can heavily impact a company if it is a crisis regarding a negative aspect of its industry, not directly to the company itself. PR crises happen frequently. Brands need to be aware of PR crises in their sector and note how other companies and individuals react to and address them.

Always have a plan

A response team dedicated to PR crisis communications or planning before an incident happens have two solid strategies for navigating crises. Responding directly about the issue as quickly as possible, with reliable information and facts, can help soothe the situation. 

Brands need to communicate and navigate PR crises with one voice. Conflicting information is confusing and makes brands look disingenuous to their customer bases. Depending on the type of crisis, specific departments may need additional staff or training on how to speak to the media about an ongoing issue. 

Every employee connected to and will address an issue publicly needs to have a clear idea of their role and how it interacts with the plan. Transparency is critical. Not giving employees all of the facts can lead to mistakes in communication, which can make the problem worse for a brand. 

Companies must not make any promises or statements that they cannot follow through with or keep. The best way to handle a situation that is getting internet scrutiny and attention is to apologize as soon as possible. Follow up with any employees, individuals, and customers directly involved in the incident, and ensure that it will not happen again.

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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.