Smart moves in a crisis.

Crisis public relations requires thinking on your feet. These four steps can help keep you from planting your shoe in something bad.

A public relations crisis can mean anything from a national brand disaster to one upset customer. And we are continually amazed at how well—or how poorly—these situations are handled.

While each instance is different, there are some fundamentals that apply to good crisis PR, and we thought we should share them.

1. Acknowledgment

Look at almost any crisis and the first step toward resolving it is for someone to take responsibility. Although legal counselors across the nation may be cringing right now, acknowledgement doesn’t mean responsibility or blame—it means indicating that the situation exists and must be addressed.

Acknowledgement more often than not translates to leadership—if you’re first. If someone else is first, say, the media or a competitor, they get the leadership garland and you get the denial label.

2. Understanding

Once an issue is acknowledged, people look for answers. Some of these may be out of your control, but if you have acknowledged the situation, you at least get a forum. Your comments on the situation need to be communicated in the language of the people listening. That may mean tailoring your message for affected parties, stockholders, employees, and others to create better understanding.

Please note that “tailoring” is different than “leaving something out.” With the transparency that is available today, missing elements of a message to one audience will get spotted quickly. But some groups won’t be interested in the technical aspects of the situation or extra background. Too much information can block what you’re trying to accomplish as much as too little.

3. Action

Depending on the situation, steps to address it may or may not be immediate. However, even if it requires assessement and mobilization, action can start with your communications. If you’re unsure of a timeline, it may be a good idea to offer regular updates, even if there is little more to report.

And take advantage of different media at your disposal. For example even if you’re not Twittering, search key topics on Twitter to see what others might be saying. This may help you shape future messages to build understanding.

4. Followup

After a crisis is over, conventional wisdom used to say stop talking about it. Now however, since reports on the situation will be archived online for eternity, it makes sense to look at additional communications to explain changes that the situation my have prompted, or to show remedies that might be out of the media eye. People who follow news stories will sometimes revisit them if they recall a detail. This gives you one more opportunity to influence these people.

To learn more about crisis communications, click here, or call 865-330-0033.


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