In the PR world, a crisis is defined as any situation that can cause harm to people or property, seriously interrupt business or significantly damage reputation. However infrequently they occur, handling crises is often an inevitable part of public relations and something publicists should be prepared for. After all, a crisis is often when our clients need us most.
Below are some important client crisis communication rules for public relations professionals to keep in mind:
1. Admit when a mistake has been made. If the situation calls for it, apologize and communicate sincere empathy and concern for anyone who may have suffered as a result of the situation at hand. The truth almost always comes out, so it’s best to tell it yourself. Remember that the sooner this happens, the sooner everyone can move forward.
2. Choose an official spokesperson. Designate this person in advance, so that he/she is prepared should a crisis arise and you aren’t scrambling to find someone last minute. If it’s someone who will be speaking with reporters on camera, try to make sure he/she has received media training.
3. Act quickly when crafting a response–but be careful. Even more important than acting quickly is to make sure the information is correct, so carefully check all facts with the appropriate parties. Consider coordinating an emergency conference call with everyone involved, rather than relying on email, so the situation can be discussed openly and quickly.
4. Develop clear, unequivocal messaging. This will help prevent confusion and potentially eliminate unnecessary back and forth with the media. When crafting a statement, also try to keep it as concise as possible. And always, always remember to stay true to your client’s core values.
5. Monitor for coverage. After sending the statement to targeted media, closely monitor for any and all coverage. The amount and type of coverage will help you predict what upcoming media inquiries may occur.
Finally, after all is said and done, take a look back at how the crisis was handled, and analyze what was done well and what could have been done better. Incorporate these lessons learned into your crisis communications plan so you will be even better prepared for whatever future crisis comes your way.
Account Executive, Elizabeth Christian Public Relations