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Ten things you need to do in a PR crisis

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5) Have your crisis communications plan ready

Each crisis is different, but you can have your media lists, fact sheets and even holding statements prepared in advance. This will give journalists something to work from while you investigate the crisis and ascertain the facts. You want to be in as much control as possible from the start, and a pre-prepared media pack will help. Don’t forget to store copies of all your crisis materials off site in case there’s an emergency at your premises.

6) Regularly update your stakeholders and media throughout the crisis

Be proactive in approaching your media contacts and providing them with information: you want to be seen as the authoritative source of information on the crisis, and you don’t want the public getting their information from other – potentially prejudiced sources.

7) It’s OK to admit you don’t have all the answers yet

Tell people what you’re doing to investigate the crisis and when you expect to have the information they need. Don’t say anything you’re not certain of, or make promises you won’t be able to keep.

8) But do act quickly to address any information you know to be wrong

Swift and direct clarification rectifies the situation. It’s important to keep on top of what’s being said about you during a crisis.

9) Online speculation means your crisis activity now needs to be 24/7 

The internet is the first place your stakeholders will go when they’re looking for information on the crisis, and they will expect to be able to contact you directly on your social media channels. Resource will need to be directed to responding quickly, accurately and reassuringly to points made and questions asked across all your streams.

10) You need to give thought to how you will rebuild your reputation after a crisis

What would a crisis ‘win’ look like for your company? After the crisis has passed and your investigation has concluded it might become clear your company wasn’t at fault, and it’s to your advantage to communicate this effectively. Ask what you can learn from the crisis to re-position your company.

PR is a vital element of crisis planning. It can integrate seamlessly with your existing risk management and business continuity plans, but remember it’s PR that’s the public face of your organisation, and this role is critical during a crisis. Having an effective plan in place prevents aggravating the situation, means no more 3am panics for your CEO, and helps you come out of an emergency on top.

Jane Kroese is PR director at KISS PR.

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