10 Key Steps For Businesses Managing A Public Relations Crisis

In business, as it is in life, we learn more about ourselves in times of crisis than we do through calm and successful periods. Unfortunately for a business, a time of crisis is not the best time to be taking stock; it is a time for action and a strong response.

If you are fortunate, you may be aware that a crisis or scandal is about to break and you can start to put plans into place. This is why a number of major firms will regularly undertake crisis management meetings and training, even when times are good. If your business has no experience in dealing with a crisis, it is likely going to struggle how to cope with your first one. By training staff members in the way to react and setting up a structure of action, it is possible to improve your response when actually faced with a crisis. It can be difficult for businesses to make time to carry out crisis training when things are going well, but it may be the activity that saves your business.

Once a crisis breaks, the following steps will help your business to manage in the best possible way:
1. Acknowledge the situation
2. Take control or position someone to be in charge
3. Ensure that the team are together and speaking collectively
4. Set up your own investigation
5. Determine what the likely impact of the crisis will be on your business
6. Listen to the public
7. Agree on company position, message and action
8. Distribute this message
9. Examine the reaction, respond if necessary
10. Review and analyse crisis reaction and use for future crisis training

As tempting as it may be to bury your head and hope that the situation blows over, for business survival you have got to acknowledge the problem. The longer it takes to acknowledge, the worse the situation will become. So critical to act fast.

Once you’ve acknowledged the business has got a problem, then someone within the organisation has to take responsibility and be a leader and spokesperson for the company. You can hire a public relations firm to help you manage, but there still needs to be a public face for the business.

With a leader and spokesperson in place, there needs to be collective unity with the extended team. Thus, they need to be brought together and given an update on what is happening along with guidance on how the situation will be managed. Not necessarily because you want them to talk to the media — moreso as you don’t want them being caught out; and really it can be helpful for everyone to be saying the same non-statement if confronted. Plus those that deal directly with prospects and customers will be better prepared to offer reassurance where needed.

An internal investigation is required
With the team on board, the next step is to launch an investigation. Whether you hire an external agent to investigate or you hive off employees to carry out research into what went wrong, this is crucial. You must be seen to be acting fast to resolve the problem and to learn how the problem happened. This can be tied in with developing an understanding of what the impact is going to be on your business. As an example, if you have a food product that has been tainted and you have to stop product and recall items, how will this impact your business? There will be lost sales, delays in delivery times and of course, you may see a loss of confidence in the market.

Knowing the impact on your business is important but you need to think about how the public view the problem. With social media, it has never been easier to gauge public opinion. Ensure you have staff members looking online and seeing what the general opinion.

With all of this knowledge combined, you should be ready to make a public statement and announce what action is being taken. You will also need to know how you are going to distribute this information. You can place a statement on your website, send out a press release, give interviews with local or national media. Plus keep the communication flowing with your extended team. In general, you just need to make sure your message can get out and will be heard by a lot of people.

Once the message is out, gauge public opinion and see what the business industry thinks. After the crisis has been concluded with, review all situations and your actions.

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