Imagine your company just experienced a major crisis—say, a wide-reaching product recall or some very bad press. The ways in which your public relations team responds to the situation and engages with stakeholders can have a significant impact on how well the entire organization bounces back from this emergency. But what exactly should they be doing to help mitigate the effects of the crisis and protect your brand?
When it comes to crisis management public relations, early and consistent response is one key to success. Your team should always make it a goal to provide as much information as is relevant to all affected stakeholders—as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In today’s fast-paced, 24-hour news cycle, any post-crisis lag in communication can be detrimental to the brand. Consider the product recall example. When news of a recall reaches your customers, you want to explain what happened and reassure them as soon as possible in order to maintain a degree of trust. You may be in an even better position if you can contact them directly, before the industry press or local media outlets catch wind of the news. This will show that the business has nothing to hide, is acknowledging whatever mistakes were made and is working to rectify the situation.
Since reaction time is so important, consider having your PR team monitor the brand and its reputation in real time. Simply setting up Google alerts, monitoring review sites and optimizing social media notifications can help them to stay on top of what is being said about the company, both in the news and among customers.
Your team can even opt to receive SMS messages whenever the company is mentioned on certain websites or platforms. Some social media apps, such Hootsuite, offer free or low-cost monitoring services. Larger corporations may require more robust techniques to stay on top of both online and print brand news and mentions.
Whatever method your team chooses, an effective monitoring protocol should provide real-time notifications that enable the crisis management public relations team to respond immediately, before a comment or conversation escalates. By getting involved early in this stage, your PR people are better equipped to control the dialogue.
Create a Human Touch
It’s so easy for the public to change their perception of a company following a crisis. Simply mishandling an emergency that is outside of your control—such as a hurricane or criminal activity—can change how your customers and partners view the business. That’s why it’s important to leverage the power of human connection during any crisis.
Your PR team has the power to add a human element to your crisis response, bringing warmth and understanding to what may otherwise seem like a sprawling, faceless corporation. When communicating with stakeholders and responding to comments, questions or complaints, the team should always strive to be positive, friendly and warm. The goal should be to make the customer or partner feel that they are getting personal attention from an actual human being.
Keep Messaging Consistent
Even in the midst of a crisis, it’s important that all communication stays consistent and on brand. This will help to reassure stakeholders with a feeling of stability.
One way to ensure that messaging stays consistent is to gain pre-approvals on all crisis communications, including press releases, social media posts, website updates and other relevant documents or statements. Have your PR team draft documents for each potential emergency situation, with as many specifics as possible. Then, route them to all relevant stakeholders for approval.
Once a crisis hits, the PR team can adapt these key messages to the specific situation and response. However, the core of the content will already be written and approved, which can save untold amounts of time.
Finally, the PR team should also help maintain the consistency of spoken messaging, such as executive interviews or press conferences and customer service phone calls. It can be so easy for a customer, partner or member of the press to misunderstand or misinterpret a spoken statement. Training spokespeople to stay on message can help preserve the overall tone of the crisis response.
Many crisis management public relations teams hold training sessions before a crisis hits, and then provide key points to each spokesperson to review and reference as needed. With this type of preparation, your team can help ensure that the overall organization is “saying” exactly what it should be.
What is your PR team’s current role in crisis management? Do you feel your organization achieves a proactive and consistent response following an emergency?