How to be Prepared when Dealing with a PR Crisis

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Every industry faces a form of crisis at one point or another. The way a company prepares for such a crisis is often a reflection of their business skill, sustainability and success. In a lot of cases, a crisis is often unforeseen; however, you can create a crisis communication plan to prepare for such a situation. Being well prepared ahead of time will only work to your advantage.

The key to a successful crisis communication plan is to ensure that all communications keep the public’s interests in the forefront. If your company is ill prepared when dealing with the media throughout your crisis, your response can often spiral out of control and worsen the current situation. If you handle the crisis appropriately, the media and the community will recognize your efforts and it will only enhance their vision of your business and its services.

There are a number of ways to craft your crisis communication plan; however, it will need to be tailored to each individual situation. Below are some general tips for staying on track:

• Assign a few employees to a crisis communication team. Ensure that they are well equipped with the details of the problem and are given key messaging materials. These members will need to be on-call during the crisis.

• Assign a spokesperson. This spokesperson will need to be well versed on the primary crisis strategy and be able to deal with media interview requests, visiting news crews, etc. 

• Never try to minimize a serious problem in the hopes that no one will notice. Conversely, don’t blow minor incidents out of proportion or allow others to do so.

• Respond to the media in a timely manner. Delays and “no comments” will make the media suspicious that you have something to hide.

• Avoid commenting on areas outside your expertise.

• Update the media daily and when the situation stabilizes, be sure to notify them that it has subsided or been solved.                                                                                                                

• Involve your legal team and outside PR advisors up-front. When you are formulating your crisis plan, review your intentions with your legal and PR advisors.

• Do not ever attempt to comment to the media “off the record.” It muddles the waters in a crisis situation.

For more information please feel free to contact me at 613-233-8906 or by e-mail at huw@impactcanada.com with questions or comments.

Huw Williams is President of Impact Public Affairs, an Ottawa-based public relations and government relations firm specializing in finding innovative strategic communications and advocacy solutions for large industry associations. Over the years, Impact has been recognized nationally and internationally for the effective and creative public affairs campaigns that it has created for its client.

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