Creating a PR Crisis Plan

“Responsible leadership should include crisis prevention, preparation and a calm, straightforward approach to communication in the event that a PR disaster must be weathered.” – Forbes

They say, “any PR is good PR.” There is some truth to this, but wouldn’t you prefer that the conversation about your brand be positive? We have seen a number of companies take a big hit from negative PR, whether it’s a recall, being bashed on social media, an employee not representing the company properly, etc. Regardless of how big or small the problem is, it is important to have a plan in place, so you can immediately react and have control of the situation.

Below are 6 things to identify to develop a PR Crisis Plan:

  1. Identify a crisis communication team – Ideally, this team should consist of a mix of executives and members of  the marketing/communications department. This team will meet when a crisis occurs to come up with plan for communication.
  2. Select 2 designated spokespeople – There should be one person that will ultimately handle most communication, but you should have at least one backup in case that person is on vacation, out of the office, or for backup in the event of a big crisis.
  3. Practice the tough questions – In the event of a crisis, media will ask a lot of questions and they won’t all be easy to answer. Even the best communicator can get nervous when approached by media, especially if it’s a news source.
  4. Create general statements – First, identify the possible audiences a crisis could affect (ex: local community, customers, investors, etc.). Create a list of initial general statements to release when needed. There should be one for social media, a press release template, an email template to send to customers, stakeholders and media, and a statement to give directly to a news source. Releasing a general statement right away will give you time to craft a more detailed message.
  5. Log communication – Create a contact log to document all communication with media regarding a crisis and share this with your legal team.
  6. Select a designated space for media interviews – This space should be a private room, such as a conference room, set aside from other employees in the organization.

A few things you should NOT do during a PR Crisis is:

  1. Say no comment – This term can be easily twisted by the media or give off the impression that you do not have a good handle on the situation or you are “guilty” of whatever the issue is. However, this leads to the next DON’T…
  2. Respond too quickly – It might be tempting to quickly send out a response or say “no comment,” but it’s okay to not respond right away. Take the time to meet with your crisis communication team, gather all the information and craft an effective message. Don’t wait too long, though! Try to at least respond within 24 hours.
  3. Lose your cool – This might be easier said than done. It’s natural to feel uneasy during a crisis, but take the time to collect your thoughts and emotions, take a walk, whatever you have to do remain calm and confident when delivering your message.

The main thing to remember during a PR crisis is transparency! Take accountability, state the facts, and keep messaging positive.

Once you have a plan in place, set meetings throughout the year to re-evaluate your plan, ensure everyone understands the process, and make any necessary changes.

Content updated on February 13, 2019.