Crisis management and communication is the most common PR function known to the public. This is because, unfortunately, many brands do not call on PR specialists until tragedy strikes. Giving PR a bad reputation in the public eye, as the bad guys called in to hide or spin the truth and help brands to cover up mistakes and even illegal activities.
The Real Purpose of Crisis Communications
More to the truth, crisis communications help brands prepare for, endure, survive, and thrive when controversy strikes. Just as people looking to resolve issues sometimes make arguments worse by using poorly chosen words, the same happens when companies tackle tough media issues on their own.
PR experts are familiar with how journalists spin stories making them sensational, or take them out of context, and can prepare spokespersons to speak carefully, clearly, and effectively.
The Greatest Challenge of Crisis Communications
While the new 24/7 news cycle is a blessing when there’s good news to share, it becomes a curse when companies want to keep a low profile. Journalists publish mistakes immediately to be the “first to market”; giving companies less time to formulate a proper strategy and careful responses.
Many executives also go to sleep after tiny problems pop up, and wake up to a huge catastrophe. This tends to happen when the story passes through several news media platforms; each one trying to create a more sensational story than the next. As a result, pushing positive messages in these instances can be a daunting task.
The Importance of Training
Public relations specialists can take media calls, work with journalists, write, and distribute press releases. However, some instances occur when managers of the brand need to interact with the media on their own. This happens in public places, during interviews or TV appearances. In such instances, they must know how to handle themselves – training addresses this issue.
It also helps eliminate the likelihood of creating another issue for PR experts to handle. For instance, an accused brand manager may become angry and strike a reporter, or say words in anger which are quickly taken out of context. When trained and properly prepared for these high-tension situations, people handle themselves better.
Plans Give Peace of Mind
In spite of the benefits of training, nothing replaces an actual crisis management and communications plan. Creating a plan before a bad incident happens helps to give executives peace of mind. This may include templates for press releases, an appointed spokesperson, emergency contacts for PR personnel, and step-by-step instructions detailing how to proceed.
PR experts can then help the company tailor a suitable plan for particular situations. After the crisis has passed, PR specialists should work with the brand managers tweaking the plan based on what was learned about how the media reacts to that brand, and what worked versus what did not.
Don’t wait until catastrophe hits to have a solid plan of action, as the 24/7 news cycle doesn’t wait for you.