In the digital age, public relations disasters can strike at any time. No brand is immune from a negative social media post that is gaining traction or an unfavorable news story, and when an incident like this occurs, it’s imperative to act quickly and decisively to address it.
When a PR crisis erupts, the first hours and the first steps are critical. What you do during this period can determine how quickly your organization recovers – or if it recovers.
Activate Crisis Team and Command Center: In this day and age, all organizations should have a crisis plan and a crisis team in place. Immediately assemble the team to verify the facts, options and priorities. The actions taken in the first 48 hours of a PR crisis can determine the outcome. Assemble a communications team to determine the messages and channels to quickly reach customers, shareholders and employees. Any public response must be in alignment with the culture and values of the company. Then, stay on top of the situation and monitor social networks inside and outside the company.
Analyze The Potential Impact Of The Situation: It’s important to understand the situation, analyzing how big or small the disaster truly is based on reach, then evaluating brand impact to guide decision-making. It’s important to look at all angles and then proceed with a more strategic plan that includes details, targets, and spends and communication delivery.
Key Messages for Key Stakeholders: Understand the problem, who is affected, and the potential impact. This will tell you a lot about who you need to communicate with and what you can share with them. Create a list of bulleted talking points for the crisis team. Refine those talking points for key audience segments as necessary and update the key messages as the situation evolves. Public safety is always your first concern and the first message in such situations;
Who Needs To Hear What: The information needs among stakeholder groups are not the same. This is an area where crisis planning pays dividends because you now have separate lists and channels for each stakeholder group. Now you can target key audiences with critical, customized information. Teams must determine the right level spokesperson for the issue and ensure their crisis plan is working and provide an accurate flow of information to the right people.
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