Picture this: you’re sitting in your office, sipping coffee and going through emails. The sun is shining, and birds are chirping. You’re still on cloud nine about the beautifully placed national media story you secured for the company and just signed on a major TikTok influencer for a new product launch. Life has never been better.
And then… BAM. You’re hit with a crisis that could potentially impact the company for years. And it feels like the whole world is about to come crashing down.
In today’s fast-paced world, a badly handled PR crisis has the potential to ultimately damage a brand’s reputation. That’s why crisis communication is becoming so much more important in PR, according to a recent survey from Agility PR Solutions.
Fortunately, at Dittoe PR, we’ve handled our fair share of crises and have learned that these five tactics are essential to every PR crisis – no matter what.
The best way to avoid a communications crisis in the first place? Have a plan.
Before we get into these five tactics, we must address the most crucial component of any effective crisis communication strategy: planning.
Every organization will face a crisis, and how it’s handled could potentially alter the public perception of a company or product – for better or worse. It’s always best to be prepared with a thorough crisis communications plan, so you can act quickly and limit negativity from affecting a brand’s image.
This plan should outline a set of guidelines used for an unexpected event affecting a business. It should also include steps to take when a crisis emerges, how to communicate with key stakeholders, and how to avoid it from happening again. While this plan may not be used often, not having one in place will put your company at a severe disadvantage when coming face-to-face with a crisis.
Most importantly, a plan helps execute these following five tactics more effectively.
1. Assess the situation. And be thorough.
Once a crisis occurs, look at the intensity of the situation and the appropriate response level. This assessment period is essential for gathering all the facts and determining if and how the crisis will be communicated to key stakeholders. While this needs to be quick, it also needs to be thorough. Failing to gather all the details has the potential to completely derail the strategy in addressing the crisis.
2. Time is of the essence.
Information can run at lightning speed and be accessible almost to everyone. This makes it crucial for PR professionals to act quickly and take control of the crisis right away. Once you have all the information, make a plan and execute that plan.
If you need time to gather more information or finalize a response strategy before addressing stakeholders, put out a holding statement instead. This gives a brief account of what the company knows now and that more information will become available. A holding statement will help get ahead of any negative sentiments, news stories, social posts, and other online chatter, while buying time to flush out the next phase of your response strategy.
3. Be honest. And prove it with action.
Companies make mistakes – it happens. However, not being open, clear and transparent about exactly what happened can spur unnecessary customer backlash. Companies should also back up statements with action. In the media statement, outline the steps to prevent this crisis from happening again. Since public perception is driven more by a company’s actions than words, this can help revive the view of a brand.
4. Never say “no comment.”
While watching movies and TV shows, you’ll see many spokespeople give a dramatic “no comment” in response to a question. However, this is not a wise strategy. Saying “no comment” has taken a negative connotation in the world of media. There are better ways to communicate that you have a limited amount of information regarding the developing situation. This is where the holding statement can come into play, and having it ready can help you look more prepared when addressing a crisis.
5. Be committed.
While a crisis can seem detrimental to an organization’s tenure, there’s a silver lining. A crisis can generate unparalleled opportunities in a way that benefits the future of your organization. So, following the crisis, be committed to acting on the lessons learned, developing new norms, and preventing unnecessary practices from creeping back in. This will help avoid future mistakes and put you in a stronger, more resilient position for the next crisis.
Need help preparing a crisis communications plan for your organization? Give us a call.