If the news is your first sign that a crisis has occurred, you’re in trouble! The best crisis communications management plans help identify a crisis so that you can prevent or minimize the damage that can be done if the crisis hits the news, social media, or influencer world.
Difficulties are inevitable, whether they are due to employee exoduses, customer complaints because of a product made with an error, or something else entirely. How you manage those emergencies can determine whether your business comes out on top and recovers quickly or if your organization’s reputation is permanently damaged.
Identifying A Crisis and Managing it Effectively
If you can identify a crisis as it develops or even before it becomes a true problem, you can immediately begin your crisis management procedures. You should already have a crisis communication plan in place for future problems, including:
- A communication team to handle all messaging and questions from journalists and the public, as well as a chief professional spokesperson for your brand (it can’t be Flo from the Geico commercial)
- A management plan to leverage advocates and other positive PR to offset the crisis and its effects
- Remember those pallets of water you gave to charity last summer,
- Remember the million Christmas light display that you invited the public to enjoy at your office,
- Remember the musical concerts that you sponsored to encourage children to embrace the arts.
- A post-crisis strategy to rebuild credibility and minimize the impact on company resources
- Engaging your board
- Reintroducing yourselves to the community
- Marketing and branding opportunities
If you identify a crisis quickly, you can get these key pieces into the proper position faster. With the right response, you’ll mitigate the damage any crisis can do to your organization. Remember lawyers and accountants are trying to prevent long-term losses due to lawsuits and the like, in public relations, we’re focused on ensuring the company has a viable future. You can’t make money if the audience won’t buy – regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome.
In any crisis, taking control early is key to successfully managing the public response process and save your brand’s reputation.
What effect does a PR crisis have on your business?
PR crises can cause irreparable damage to your business, particularly if they occur regularly. Left unchecked, a PR crisis can:
- Destroy public trust in your brand and make target consumers less interested
- Drive traffic away from your website
- Force business adjustments or new restrictions
- Cause new regulations to be put in place
Because PR crises can be so damaging, you must identify the warning signs of an upcoming or potential problem as a key part of crisis management.
Identifying the Warning Signs
Most PR crises don’t come out of the blue. There’s usually more than one point where you or a crisis manager can interfere and stop a crisis from being as bad as it might otherwise be, either by adopting a quick strategy or adjusting company behavior before the media catches wind of an issue.
Your crisis management or communication manager’s job is to catch incoming crises before they grow to a fever pitch. Ensure that they have a plan for a crisis if one occurs and that they’re monitoring media channels or contact lists to intercept any problems before they damage your company’s reputation.
It is easy to forget, but crucial that you don’t – your brand has a personality. If you are the customer service brand and then fail miserably, respond as a customer service brand should!
Not Sure if It’s a Crisis for Your Brand? Use this Quick Test*
So, how can you tell whether a situation is a full-on crisis in the first place and not just hot air is blown around by the rumor mill? The first step: use this Quick Crisis Test and ask yourself the following questions:
• Is there a good chance that a potential crisis situation will escalate in intensity? Will it become worse in the near future?
• Will the situation bring unwanted attention to regulatory agencies, the news, or outside organizations?
• Will the situation interfere with your normal business operations?
• Could the situation make your company look bad or cause your customers or stakeholders to lose confidence in your organization?
If the answer is YES to any of the above questions, it’s a crisis in the making. This test is the best way to quickly identify whether you need to get your crisis response plan in place and moving ASAP.
What to Look for – Signs a Crisis May Be Brewing or Imminent
In addition to using the above steps, you should also keep an eye out for any brewing or imminent crises by looking for warning signs.
For example, one warning sign of an upcoming PR crisis might be consistently low customer satisfaction scores. Another could be a bunch of employees leaving your organization in a hurry, citing dissatisfaction with HR or salary levels.
Other signs to keep an eye out for include:
- Renewed buzz about your organization that isn’t necessarily positive
- Lower than expected financials for a public company
- A competitor coming out with a bunch of PR that mentions your company in an antagonistic way
- A government investigation into the company at any level
- Rumors circulating about your company in general, especially on an online website like a blog or social media platform, which may influence public opinion
For many organizations, a crisis can be a regular occurrence. For example, if you are building a billion-dollar airport terminal, you already are anticipating the death of a worker, perhaps more. If you are in law enforcement or other fields with high risks, a crisis can spring upon you. For those industries, a crisis plan and response is something that needs to be extremely well-practiced to deal with the harsh realities of the industry.
Stay Prepared for Crises and Keep Your Response Plan Up-to-Date
Ultimately, identifying a crisis before it reaches its peak damaging potential is key to managing it successfully and minimizing its effects. With MPR’s help, you’ll be able to handle any crisis that comes your way and communicate effectively until recovery. Our media training gives you the skills needed to be prepared for any brand communication need. Contact us today to see how we can develop or rebuild your brand’s public image.
*“Crisis Management: Planning for the Inevitable” by Steven Fink.