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Ten things you need to do in a PR crisis

An unexpected crisis can ruin a hard-won reputation, decimate your bottom line, and put the future of your company in jeopardy. Having a strategic plan in place in case the worst happens is vital insurance for any company.
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Some managers are reluctant to undertake crisis planning: crisis is by its nature unpredictable, making it difficult to know where to start. Acknowledging that you could face an emergency is uncomfortable, and it’s not always clear where crisis planning should fit amongst your day to day tasks.

There are far too many companies that are not adequately prepared for a crisis. But crossing your fingers and hoping it won’t happen to you isn’t good enough. Even if you’re committed to the highest standards and always implement best practice, a crisis could come from an unexpected place: the actions of a member of staff, a sector-wide emergency or a problem with a supplier or distributor could impact your business too.

A crisis can be an opportunity. When we produce crisis strategies, we aim for the company’s reputation to be equal to the status it had before the crisis – if not better. 

With a strong plan you can not only avoid damage, but come out ahead. No one can control a crisis, but they are most open to positive influence through strong communications in their earliest stages. Having a good plan in place allows you to react quickly and appropriately.

Here are my top ten tips for crisis management:

1) Have a strong communications plan

This will help maintain good relationships with all your stakeholder groups. These relationships are tested in a crisis, and these are the people you may need to call on for their support. Remember your stakeholders aren’t just your customers: they include your staff, neighbours and journalists.

2) Scan for potential risks and issues

If you have good communication with your stakeholders you can spot an issue when it emerges, and intervene before you have a crisis on your hands. Good issues scanning depends on monitoring developments in your sector, legislative changes, media attitudes and the behaviour of your competitors, and being responsive to your customers’ needs.

3) Identify your key spokespeople

Ensure that all key spokespeople have been trained in handling crises and dealing with the media. Your spokespeople should be members of senior management who can keep calm under pressure and will be comfortable speaking to journalists at short notice.

4) Have a well co-ordinated crisis team

During a crisis all communications should be co-ordinated by the crisis team: advise your staff to direct external enquiries to them, and not to speak to the media on their own initiative! Appoint alternates for your team, in case someone is off that day or you have a long crisis and need to rotate your personnel. Remember it’s too late to learn the skills you need during the crisis – don’t wait until you have an emergency on your hands.

Continue reading more tips for crisis management on page two…

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