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Why you need a PR crisis management plan

October 16th 2018 By Hannah Shepherd

No matter how stringent you are on site, accidents can still happen. But how prepared are you to deal with a crisis? Sure, you have the necessary health and safety procedures in place, but have you thought about the media requirements?
In this day and age, with social media and 24 hour news, a PR crisis management plan is a necessity. Businesses are now often judged more on how they handle a crisis. A company’s response to an incident can either boost reputation or damage it even further.
Crisis management is about how a company handles a range of issues from something like Grenfell Tower or Carillion, to a death on site, someone being attacked, a terrorist attack, arson, or even noise complaints.
Unfortunately, many businesses won’t think about a PR crisis management plan until it’s too late. It’s only when they are faced with a crisis that they realise the value of having a plan. But where do you even begin when it comes to producing a PR crisis management plan?

Establish a PR crisis team

Regardless of the size of your company, you need to identify a team that will be responsible for dealing with media communications in the event of a crisis. To have the broadest reach, aim to include staff from across all levels and departments. As well as including those with PR crisis management, involve heads of departments that could be affected by a crisis.
You will need to appoint someone as head of communications, select a PR writer, and ensure there is someone to gather coverage of the crisis, so you can keep up-to-date with the external situation. You might also want to consider legal support, to help you in the most severe cases.

Identify possible scenarios

While Monty Python might have encouraged everyone to look on the bright side of life, when creating a crisis management plan, you need to think pessimistically so you can prepare for all eventualities.
There may be some generic scenarios but there will also be some instances that will be specific to your industry and your company, such as:

These are just a few examples of the types of situations you should prepare for. Your list should cover all range of instances, from the smallest crisis to the largest, to make sure you feel prepared, no matter what situation you might be faced with.

Create your plan of action

Armed with a list of potential issues, work with your established PR team to create a plan of action for each possible scenario. You won’t be able to predict exactly what will happen, but having a plan outlining who to notify, how you will notify them, how you will deal with the influx of incoming messages, and so on, will help make you feel more prepared, allowing you to deal with the crisis immediately and in a calm and rational way.
Bear in mind that the list of people to get in contact with could include customers, employees and their families, media organisations, the community, company management, suppliers, and possibly even regulatory authorities. Make sure you have all the necessary contact information for all of these contacts.
Once you have your plan, give it a test run to identify any missing gaps before you’re faced with an actual crisis.

Don’t forget about social media

As well as sharing updates and statements on your company’s social media channels, you also need to be prepared for a potential social media backlash.
Smaller companies can often be guilty of ignoring the possibility that a firestorm could ignite on social media. Just because a company is not marketing on social does not mean their customers won’t put them in check on those platforms when something goes wrong.
With social media, information is accessible to all, so while it gives you a platform to quickly and easily share your own communications, it can also lead to a spread of misinformation, and you need to be ahead of the game, ensuring your PR crisis team is aware of any falsities.
There’s a good chance that you will be met with negative comments on social media, so be prepared. Assess whether there’s a need to respond and remember that most people will be complaining for a reason, so take these negative comments on board and use them to improve. When you do respond, make sure you apologise, take responsibility, and most of all, show your human side. Again, your response could further damage your reputation or help you rebuild it!
Finding yourself in the middle of a PR crisis is overwhelming, but having a plan in place can make sure you handle it in the right way. Chapman Consulting can offer expert advice to help you develop your PR crisis management plan.

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