Identifying and Responding to a Public Relations Crisis

Public relations agencies tend to do plenty of work when it comes to connecting brands with journalists, media outlets and a target audience. However, another key element of an agency’s services includes dealing with any type of public relations crisis.

What is a PR crisis?

To put it simply, a public relations crisis is anything that could end up damaging the reputation of a brand or a corporation. It is anything that could cause a loss of trust, whether that is the trust with the audience or with the investors, and finally, it is anything that is deemed to be a risk to the health, the lives, or the safety of staff, clients, stakeholders or the audience.

Whatever situation is developing, if it falls somewhere between those three categories, that brand or company is undergoing a public relations crisis.

After identifying that a certain situation is a PR crisis, the next step is to decide whether the company should stay quiet and hope that the storm blows over on its own, or if a response is necessary. This can be decided by providing answers to the following questions:

● Are people expecting the organization to be responsible and provide a response?

● Would keeping things quiet be seen as a sign of guilt or even as a sign that the organization doesn’t care about the issue?

● Finally, is anyone else already talking about the issue and framing it in a certain way?

If the answer to any of those three questions is yes, then the organization has a significant problem and should proceed to respond to the issue at hand. However, instead of rushing to a response, the next step that a brand should be taking is asking what would an appropriate response be in that type of situation.

How should organizations respond?

There are plenty of variables that affect a response during a PR crisis. Furthermore, the way that the initial response is framed during the first few minutes of the situation is usually what sets the tone of everything that will be happening in the future.

This is why it is important for every organization to have a solid crisis communications plan. Although not every scenario can be anticipated and covered in such a plan, there should always be some core principles that will help the organization in minimizing any chaos or potential loss of trust that proves to be a challenge for many brands.

The core principles of a crisis communications plan should always include the command structure which helps establish, as well as control, the flow of communication. The plan should also set out an optimal tone for all further necessary responses, which typically need to be transparent, compassionate as well as proactive.

The organization has to stick to the facts and provide information, as well as data, to all statements. Finally, all organizations should keep their stakeholders up to date, as there are few worse things than having stakeholders find out about a PR crisis on the evening news.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO and Founder of 5W Public Relations. 5W PR is a leading digital pr and influencer marketing agency.

Ronn Torossian is CEO & Founder of 5WPR & one of America’s most notable PR executives. He is the Author of best-selling PR book, “For Immediate Release.“

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