When it comes to a PR crisis, you don’t want to be learning about how to do it in the middle of the crisis. Yet too many organizations have nothing — protocols, templates, spokesperson, etc., in place for such a situation. Besides that, having to take the time to hire a PR crisis specialist can put you way behind and playing catch-up when you desperately need to be ahead of the problem.
What Should You Do in Advance of any Crisis?
First, schedule time with a PR crisis management specialist as soon as you can work it into your budget — and make it a priority for that. As part of that process, you need to evaluate what you have in place that can help. The next steps include:
Crisis management isn’t just about preparation, but getting that right will make everything else easier. Ultimately, you’ll also need to deal with the problem when it is happening as well as reviewing things after it is put to rest. Another way to look at this is … preparation, dealing with the crisis and bouncing back afterward. But let’s talk her about the preparation phase of crisis management.
Identify the types of crises you may face in your business, including ones that any business may be susceptible. These might include security breach/hackers, product liability issues, bad behavior by leaders or even regular employees, and excessive customer complaints on social media.
Once you decide on the possible problems, then you need to begin developing a plan. Look at your people to decide if one person would be good at dealing with all the types of problems, or maybe if each one would benefit more from different people. For example, hacking issues might be best dealt with by your IT leader. Once you make that decision, then the person(s) in charge of each possible situation should put together a plan for how to deal with that issue. Decide who will be helping the leader, about any procedures that need to be developed, materials that will be needed, media training, and finally time practicing the scenarios.
Because any crisis management plan will need to consider social media and how to approach situations, it should be a priority to write up possible templates for the possible crisis situations that can be quickly changed with specific information at the time of a problem and then released on social media. First responses don’t necessarily need to offer a final solution, but they should include acknowledgement of the problem, what is happening at the point of the release — looking into the matter, reaching out to those hurt to offer assistance, etc., bringing experts to review and resolve the problem, or firing the offending person and working through what the person that was offended needs to find resolution.
The plan should include notifying employees of the firm or other associates of the organization, even before the information goes to the public. That way you get your people on board, and they know the information they can share when people ask them questions … and they will.
If you haven’t already, each of those people in charge, as well as company leaders, need to have alerts on their search engine of choice for immediate notification about anything regarding the organization. This is especially true for those who do not have 24/7 customer service lines. This will allow immediate reaction to any problem that arises, and you don’t have to wait for several hours before learning about it and responding. Those hours could completely sink your business if left unaddressed.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.