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Emily Bergh - Founder Of RPR Shares How to Work With A PR Firm When A PR Crisis Arises

It’s not the most glamorous fact or something anyone wants to hear, but nearly every business will experience a crisis once in its lifetime. Rather than wait for the crisis to arise, I strongly suggest business owners, founders, and principles proactively consider working with their public relations (PR) firm or hiring one long-term to develop a solid course of action, including approval processes and statement guidelines, before any issues come to light. I have worked with corporate hotel chains, professional athletes, celebrities going through a divorce, and YouTube stars, all with various forms of PR crisis that needed to be attended to in order to support the longevity of their brands and their own reputations. While the bigger your name, the more the risk of crisis, the impact on any person, brand, or business can be just as detrimental without the right crisis communication. Let’s dive in!


What is Crisis Communication?


Crisis communication is the practice of distributing information to address a crisis that impacts customers, other stakeholders, and/or the organization’s overall reputation. Nobody expects a crisis, which is why this practice is often deemed unnecessary. In reality, the best communicators expect the unexpected, and having a solid crisis communication plan in place can help mitigate major issues down the road.


The crises you may need to address include financial issues, major staffing changes, technological failures that affect your customers or the general public, workplace violence, poor organizational practices or leadership interviews, or natural disasters.


How to Work with Your Public Relations Firm When a PR Crisis Arises


A good crisis plan outlines the specific steps your organization will take when a public issue occurs, including media response strategies and how you’ll address stakeholders. When planning for a crisis, collaborate with your public relations firm to follow these steps.


1. Assess Your Risk


First things first: you’ll need your public relations firm to conduct an analysis of your overall risk factors in various segments. Take a look at the following:

  • Your business structure. Which areas of your business have higher risk potential? Which could potentially impact customers or the public the most?

  • Your external relationships. What is the status of your current vendor, contractor, and partnership relationships? How about your relationships with local, regional, and national media?

  • Your internal team. What is the current status of your workforce? Is it strong, or have you recently gone through rounds of layoffs? What is the overall employee sentiment toward leadership?

  • Your industry. What industry-wide practices could lead to future crises or harm?

Map all of your risk factors out in a visual chart so you can address each section in your crisis plan.


2. Create a Flow Chart


Now that you know the risks of your business, you’ll need to bring together a team that can address them. Your core team should include your public relations firm, members of your leadership team, and a few internal team members in the PR or marketing department. You may also want to tap other individuals, like the head of HR, customer service, or operations, to weigh in on particular risk factors relevant to their roles.


Once you’ve identified the players that need to be involved during crises, create a flow chart for each person’s role. Your public relations firm should be the first touchpoint for not only writing statements to address the public but also for media relations. Internal team members may need to weigh in for context on the situation or to provide quick approvals. Make sure you have backup individuals assigned if you cannot get in touch with the A-team right away.


3. Plan Your Responses


You can do quite a bit of proactive crisis management before an issue ever arises! We recommend working closely with your public relations firm to draft sample statements, quotes, and social media posts to address every type of risk you assessed in the first step. You can also prep templates that team members can customize to the specific situation. Generally, make sure your responses are empathetic, genuine, and not too vague.


4. Regularly Review and Update


Crisis plans should be reviewed and updated quarterly. Once a year, consider doing a fully updated risk assessment, then you can make adjustments to your planned responses from there. The flow chart of involved team members should be updated every time a personnel change occurs at the company.


5. Find a Professional Crisis Management Team


If this all seems too daunting and out of your wheelhouse, find a professional who can help you plan ahead for future risk and potential areas where you can become proactive in your business model to avoid crisis. There are many out there, yet, find someone referred or trusted to ensure you can get what you are needing for your business.


Is Working with a Public Relations Firm Difficult During a Crisis?


PR crises can be scary, just the term itself gives any business owner or CEO a bit of goosebumps, but with solid plans in place, you can approach each crisis stealthily and professionally. Well-laid plans will result in seamless collaboration with your firm—your work together should not be at all challenging! Remember, your public relations firm is there to be your right-hand partner and guide throughout the process, so lean on them when needed. You’ve got this!

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