As a former journalist and news editor, there’s nothing quite like a crisis to get the heart rate going. Even at 2am you’re already writing the front page headline as you’re getting dressed because someone jumped off scaffolding at a construction site thinking they were a superhero or one of the city’s largest locally-owned businesses announces its closure after 100-odd years.
However, when the crisis is happening to you or your business there’s nothing worse, which is why it’s imperative to get a public relations consultant, with experience, on board to help you through the turmoil.
It takes experience to know how to best handle a crisis. So, here’s what I’ve learned so far.
- Call your public relations consultant as soon as the crisis begins to unfold.
- Halt all interaction online – until you have a plan and clear messaging. That means no social media posts! If you have posts scheduled to go out postpone these – you don’t want to receive criticism for something that’s slipped through the cracks. The same for any radio, TV or print ads.
- Hold a meeting with the board or heads of departments (you must include your PR team, whether internal or external) and make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Decide on a plan of action – and key messaging. How often will you make updates online – or put out a statement?
- Inform staff of the situation. Make sure they understand and know the public message – even if that’s a ‘we don’t have any further information at this time,’ type comment.
- If you need to issue an apology do so.
- Get ahead of the media – release a statement, inform them of when the next update is likely to be and who their main point of contact is.
- Choose a spokesperson who can handle multiple interviews and or calls and will stay on point.
- Have your team planning for the future now. I worked with a company that suffered a comms crisis and less than 12 weeks later won a national award because we were already planning how to ‘save’ the reputation of the company as the crisis was unfolding.
- Handling a crisis well is key to the ongoing success of your business – what you do in those first hours or days could be the making of you and your company.
Whatever the situation, make sure you have the right people on board to help you through. PR crisis experts are worth their weight in gold.