All businesses, big or small, could face some form of public relations crisis at any point. The way they respond to this can either significantly damage their brand or give them a much-needed image boost during a tough period. In this day and age news goes viral almost instantly, meaning that organisations need to be prepared to respond to any PR crisis efficiently to be in a stronger position to navigate the situation.

As a result of this, we have established four steps that communicators need to master to ensure they are as ready as they can be for a crisis situation. No business is perfect and incidents may arise unexpectedly, but it is the response which decides whether the company comes through with its reputation intact.

Step one

The first stage of the process is learning how to identify when an issue becomes a crisis. A crisis is an acute situation which falls outside of normal business performance and stops the organisation from operating effectively. Is the event already in the public domain? Does it require immediate management attention? The best way to reduce reputational damage is to settle the issues before they arise and develop into a crisis.

Step two

The next stage is putting together a crisis comms plan. Building an up-to-date policy explicitly outlining internal communication, approval process and the chain of command will ensure that any business is fully-prepared, whilst making sure that the plan is flexible and adaptable to any situation which may occur. Any team member should be able to pick up and understand the plan in the event of a crisis, even though in most cases the CEO will be the public face of the business when reassuring the audience that the situation is being dealt with.

The crisis comms plan should include important information even what is presumed to be known by all, such as passwords. For best outcome, a simple and flexible crisis plan which has been battle-tested should be in place, where the team has a dependable reference of their roles and responsibilities throughout the crisis.

Step three

The next step entails working with a legal department to create an appropriate response. In a crisis scenario, an organisation will be asked to respond publicly to what is going on, which will most likely need approval by solicitors so a good working relationship is vital. By working together, both should be able to compose messaging which conveys an organisation’s sorrow about what has gone wrong without accepting liability. Any statements should be stress tested to ensure information is accurate, lawful and consistent with the business’s position.

Step four

The final step is delivering the approved response. When an event arises that negatively impacts a company’s brand, it is crucial to respond thoughtfully, quickly and empathetically. The spokesperson can mitigate the negative impact of the crisis on the reputation of the business, so it is important to ensure that they support rather than sink the company, as poor appearance is the quickest way of undermining a crisis comms strategy. If the response is communicated effectively, the business has a stronger chance of coming through the crisis intact.

If your business lacks a crisis plan, get in touch with our experienced PR team and we’ll make sure you can handle any issue quickly and effectively.