That saying especially rings true for public relations professionals. When a PR crisis hits, you want to know that others have gone through something similar and came out on top.
From the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad fail to overall online reputation management, if you’re going through PR nightmare, I guarantee someone else has had it worse. Good news is that I’ve gathered all of the best tips from crisis communication pros, so you too can come out of a crisis better than ever.
Public relations tips
Crisis communication is a major part of public relations. When something happens that threatens your clients’ reputation, it’s your job to address the situation head-on. You can’t do this unless you prepare, and these tips will get you ready for anything that comes your way.
1. Plan in advance
“When you are launching a controversial campaign or releasing some breaking news preparation is key. Have a high representative at the company draft a statement in case there is negative backlash.”
Tip: Learn how to create a PR campaign that keeps you out of hot water
2. Listen carefully and calmly
“More often, companies come to us after the storm has hit. I’ve learned to listen carefully and calmly. It sounds basic but it matters. I want them to walk away from our first discussion of the crisis more at ease, assured that I’ve dealt with this before and understand the scope of their problem. I can’t do that if I’m not listening. I’ve learned how little people understand how the media works and how much they fear journalists. That distrust and fear can lead to a poor response and irreversible reputation damage. My job is to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“Take a bird’s-eye look and understand not just how you feel and what you want, but what the repercussions can be for every stakeholder. Your approach to managing it will be best met by onlookers when it appears to be unselfish, thoughtful, and with an eye on making it right for others, not just you. Anything else will seem self-serving or even sanctimonious. No one wants to see that.”
“Don't let lawyers run the PR strategy. You can work collaboratively with the legal team but there will be times when the strategies veer. I once had a case where the client completely deferred to the lawyers. They won their case in court but their brand name was destroyed in the public opinion arena and the company had to declare bankruptcy.”
“Frequently because a company does not know everything about a crisis situation, as they are often fluid, they say nothing at all, which only serves to hurt them. Silence is seen as indifference or an affirmation of guilt and allows critics, adversaries and the media to define the crisis and your company’s motives. It is completely acceptable to communicate what you can and tell the media you will provide more information as it becomes available.”
- Jennifer Donahoe, Public Relations and Social Media Account Director at Planit Agency
Don’t recreate the wheel
There are people who’ve tackled the same problems as you. So don’t start from scratch, simply learn from these tips and your own experiences. Crisis communication will feel easier if you know what to do when the time comes.
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Deirdre O’Donoghue is a Content Manager at Nature's Fynd and a former Content Manager at G2. In her free time, you can find Deirdre fostering puppies or exploring the Chicago foodie scene. (she/her/hers)