Why you should start PR now, not when a crisis hits
Businesses looking to build their profiles and reputations engage in proactive PR campaigns to boost awareness and grow their community and product sales.
But when businesses attract unwelcome media attention through bad news, such as job cuts, scandals involving high-profile spokespeople or your brand, merger failures, or accidents, it’s how companies respond that determines how best they survive.
In times of crisis, it’s the PR work and planning you do or don’t do beforehand that determines how much your business’ reputation will suffer and if, or how well, your business recovers. Being proactive and using a PR agency to plan your crisis management strategy can lead to a better public perception post-crisis – which is why you should start PR now, not when a crisis hits.
Why start PR now
Businesses that use PR to build and establish their profiles and reputations over time are in a much stronger position to prevent or minimise reputational harm than businesses which only act when bad publicity strikes. It takes time to build trust and credibility and engaging in PR strategies over months and years is the only way to achieve that.
Finely-honed key messaging, authentic brand voice, outreach strategy, and media relations are all key elements of long-term public relations campaigns. They are also the first steps in mitigating reputational risks by minimising the possibility of your brand becoming exposed to a crisis or becoming caught-up in a wider public scandal.
Building your reputation is important, not just for building customers’ trust but to make sure in the case of a crisis, your brand isn’t damaged.
Starting PR well before a crisis hits also means your business can be ‘crisis ready’ with your PR team preparing a pre-approved crisis management plan. The big advantage of having a crisis management plan is key spokespeople, management, and staff know what to do the moment bad news strikes.
This is crucial as timing is everything when things go wrong.
The faster you respond to a crisis, the greater the chance of protecting your brand and your reputation. A prompt response can stop a crisis from escalating and can help you control the narrative, thereby, preventing or lessening the damage to your reputation.
Failure to respond quickly, or being invisible, creates uncertainty and anger among your stakeholders, including your shareholders and your customers.
Standard practice is to respond to a crisis within 20 minutes. So, it’s simply too late to minimise the damage if you leave it to when the media is circling to pick up the phone and contact a PR company. Invariably, it’s businesses that aren’t crisis ready, which fail to effectively manage a crisis. Poor crisis management can seriously harm your reputation and relationships with stakeholders, and in some cases, businesses are forced to collapse under the pressure of a public scandal.
What is crisis management?
Crisis management is the process a business follows when responding to a crisis, whether it be an unexpected negative event or bad publicity that threatens your credibility and your reputation.
This process is usually developed by a PR company that specialises in crisis communications and means, in times of crisis, you can respond quickly and communicate effectively with internal and external stakeholders.
How to manage a crisis
So, how to manage a PR crisis. A long-term PR strategy not only leads to increased awareness, more sales and customers, and greater business opportunities but also gives your business agility and strength to respond when times are tough.
There are three phases of crisis management:
- Being prepared
- Knowing how to respond
- Knowing what to say
Being prepared is key to successfully managing a crisis. It’s very good business practice to have a strong crisis response strategy that can be activated immediately.
Creating a crisis management plan forces you to consider the worst-case scenarios and how to react to those scenarios. It also allows you to predict what type of scandal or bad news could come your way before it does.
So, even in the most disastrous of situations, having a strong crisis communications plan helps protect you and your business from irreparable reputational damage.
As a business owner, you need to start thinking that it’s not IF a crisis will happen but WHEN. By adopting this attitude, you’re already putting your business in a better position to bounce back from a crisis.
Knowing how to respond
Knowing how to respond means being media trained. In a crisis, it’s vital to have a spokesperson who is confident talking to journalists. Not just one-on-one interviews but, more importantly, being able to handle a media conference full of hostile journalists, in front of multiple television cameras. And if the scandal is big enough, a media conference that could be broadcast ‘live’ to a very large audience.
Media training teaches you how to be better prepared to handle tough questions. Tricky questions can also come in everyday interviews with journalists, but those difficult questions are more than likely to be asked during the highly stressful and volatile times of a crisis.
Staying ‘on message’ and staying calm is critical during a crisis because your reputation greatly depends on how well you present yourself to the media. The more intense the scrutiny, the greater the impact on your brand and your reputation. So, it’s crucial to perform well when you’re under the gaze of the media spotlight.
Knowing what to say
Knowing what to say is also crucial during a crisis to maintain your brand’s reputation and the positive public perception of your business. As part of your crisis management plan, you should start developing key messaging to determine exactly what position you need to adopt, and what to say, to best protect your reputation.
Engaging in long-term PR also allows you to practice and refine your key messaging over time. So, if you have to hit the ground running during a crisis, you can get the most out of any media interviews.
During times of green, decisions can be made more rationally as you have time to prepare exactly what should be said when times are red. Media assets and internal communications assets, and policies can also be created before things go wrong.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security – crisis can strike your business at any place and at any time. Starting PR now and not when a crisis hits, means being prepared for the worst but hoping for the best. It’s about preparing a plan that you hope you’ll never have to use.
Reputation is the make or break of any business. So, when it comes to protecting your reputation, the time to act is now and not when something terrible has happened and it’s simply too late to rectify the damage.
At Adoni Media, our team is regularly called on to assist with crisis management. If it’s a new client who we haven’t worked with previously who is requiring crisis assistance, it’s at this point they wished they had acted earlier. To find out how we can help, contact us.