Public Relations Crisis

August 17, 2022

Public Relations Crisis

Public Relations is a vital element for the success of any company. Every business, from large to small, has to handle certain degrees of public relations. If your business interacts with the public, from brand recognition and reputational damage to simple customer feedback, you’ll eventually need to handle and manage a PR crisis. 

It’s not a question of “if” your business would face any problems with your public relations, but instead it’s a question of “when” will you face a PR crisis. Your business can never be 100% safe from potentially harmful situations that could negatively impact your relationship with your customers.  

For this reason, companies all over the world recognize the value of having a dedicated PR team to handle any incidents, mishaps, or problems. In fact, the global PR market is worth more than 103 billion US dollars, and it is expected that by 2026 the industry would reach 149 billion US dollars. 

What is a PR crisis? 

Most businesses and brands will likely face or have faced a public relations crisis in the company’s lifetime. From constantly getting bad reviews to more serious matters like a company scandal.

A negative event can have a drastic impact on your organization’s reputation. Your company could also be negatively affected by events outside of your control, such as accidents or cyber-attacks. According to a Forbes Insight Report, 46% of companies have experienced reputational damage due to cyberattacks. 

A PR crisis is when any severe negative event or situation about your company gains public attention. It could be due to bad management, unhealthy business practices, an accident, or even an internal issue. Public relations crises are dangerous because they could tarnish the image and reputation of your business. However, not every issue is a PR Crisis. What constitutes a crisis could vary from company to company, but there are three important questions to ask. Will the issue critically affect the company’s workflow? Will the company’s reputation be damaged? Will it affect the company’s bottom-line? If your company experiences a PR crisis, then it is vital that you mitigate any damage to your reputation so as to minimize any harm caused to your relationship with your customers. No response can be perfect but handle it well enough that you earn back the trust of your customers.  

How to avoid a PR crisis 

No company can completely avoid any sort of negative PR. However, you can prepare for the inevitable and minimize the risk.  

Having guidelines or rules to follow would allow your brand to avoid or minimize blunders. Designate your company’s position or what language and tone to use in posts. These guidelines can be flexible so as to allow for any changes or adaptations.  

Any social media messages, posts, blogs, press releases, and interviews must be checked and approved before release.  There should also be a comprehensive policy that will help you avoid any legal issues and security problems. Basically, it’ll describe how your PR team should act online, so as to protect your brand’s image. 

Public Relations Crisis Management 

Any negative PR or crisis can develop into a full-blown disaster. Companies would often invest vast amounts of time and money to craft a good reputation, but it would only take seconds to destroy it. This is why it is essential that your company is prepared to handle a PR crisis so as to properly maintain or even improve your organization’s precious reputation.  

1. Act Quickly

Once you realize that you have a Public Relations Crisis on your hands, you have to move quickly. The faster you acknowledge and address the problem, the better your chances of controlling the narrative and minimizing the damage to your brand’s reputation. 

In the age of social media, where news can be delivered within seconds, taking immediate action to address the issue is the key step to managing the PR crisis. The first few minutes to 24 hours would determine whether a company’s reputation would shatter or survive the crisis.  

Find the right media outlets that will best represent your company. Publish a statement on company social media pages, give an interview for news outlets, or write an article about the situation, as long as it’s done in a timely manner. Your company must project an impression that everything is under control and that you are on top of the situation. As there will always be more time for a more thorough explanation in the future. 

2. Form a Response Team 

There should already be a designated response team in place before a PR crisis happens. During a controversy, you’ll want to have the right people on the job speaking on behalf of your company. It is vital that the company reacts fast and speaks with one voice, which is why having a response team is vital because it allows you to carefully craft one unified message to address the issue. 

During a PR crisis, the main task of the PR team is to inform every concerned party and stakeholder about the situation, any potential risks, and your response or planned actions. A good PR response or announcement should restore trust in your brand and give you time to investigate and solve the issue. 

According to SalaryExplorer, someone working in Public Relations in Singapore would usually earn on average 8,500 SGD per month, it could start from 3,770 SGD and could go to 14,100 SGD. Investing in a good PR team and strategy is vital for the continued success of any company because they serve as your first line of defense against any PR crisis. Whether the crisis negatively affects your brand reputation depends on how well your PR team manages and mitigates the backlash. Everyone must know their roles and work effectively within a team

3.  Formulate a Crisis Plan and Response 

The PR team should follow the established company PR protocol and strategy. Having a plan in place when a PR crisis hits would allow for a quick and unified response because every member of the team is already aware of their roles, tasks, and mission. A good PR crisis plan could anticipate potential crisis scenarios and create protocols for handling them. The PR crisis team should also conduct damage assessments and fact-gathering to craft the best possible response.  

The response should be clear, quick, and transparent. Apologize quickly, take responsibility for the mistakes, and then make it clear that the same mistake won’t happen again. Honesty, responsibility, and accountability are the best traits to project to your audience. The sooner your company apologizes and admits its mistakes, the sooner your customers can forgive you and for the situation to return to normal.  

However, there are some cases where it’s better to be silent or not release a statement. For example, there are legal situations where an apology would be the same as an admission of guilt. As such, every PR crisis needs a different reaction. 

PR crisis management and planning really is vital for any company. This is why some 88% of PR professionals say that, in the next five years, strategic planning will be one of the most important skills for success. Having a PR crisis management plan in place before anything bad happens can help save precious time and limit any damage in the event of a PR disaster.  

4. Conduct a PR Crisis Analysis 

Once the crisis is over, your PR team can conduct a post-situation analysis. This is to examine how well your organization handled the situation. Learn from your mistakes and make changes to prevent any similar mishaps.  

Discuss the previous crisis with your team and evaluate its performance to improve the company’s PR Crisis management in the future. Ask questions like, what parts of the plan succeeded and failed? Is additional training and development required? What areas need improvement? 

You could also decide to further incorporate technology into your PR management system. Use various tools to increase communication and data tracking. In fact, 59% of PR professionals believe that technology will be key in driving industry transformation. The Public Relations team could get various benefits from using technological advancements like monitoring brand mentions, quick and easy communication, and data analysis.  

Learn from our industry expert trainers to get more useful advice on public relations by enrolling in these PR Courses:

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