By Neeve Prendergast
Let’s be real, 2020 has been one big crisis situation. While our world is simultaneously fighting unprecedented natural disasters, racial inequities, and a global pandemic, we all are feeling constantly on edge, without a plan. As communicators and emerging professionals, we find ourselves at the intersection of all these issues as we pave the way for a greener, more equal, and healthier future. However, long after these issues have left our daily conversations, having the skills to properly handle a crisis will always be needed. All PR gurus should have these crisis plans in their back pockets...just in case.
1. Be Prepared
2020 has truly shown us that when it comes to crises, it’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of when. While it may be hard to brainstorm every possible crisis you may find yourself in, it is so important to have a rough idea of what could land your brand in hot water. When it comes to crisis management, you can never be too prepared. Depending on which industry your brand is located in, questions to consider could be: are we prone to data breaches, how would our brand and its values react to social justice issues, and what harmful impacts could be felt due to our brand. For each potential threat, create a one-size-fits-all strategy that you can tailor with specific details later. Do the heavy lifting now so you can perfect your messaging later.
2. Transparency is Key
When it comes to responding to crisis, honesty is the best policy. Undesirable situations are always made worse when companies try to cover up their blunders rather than own up to them. Admit to mistakes and wrong doings. Detail how you are fixing the situation. Be sincere. By building transparency to your audience, they will transform respect into trust. In a crisis situation,
you will rely on your loyal audience to be your allies. Brands with high transparency before a crisis normally have the best results when weathering an unpredicted storm.
3. Act quickly
After the crisis sets in, the world will be waiting for your statement. While it may be your gut instinct to immediately release a statement, a rash reaction may cause more harm than good. Hopefully, you have already flagged your crisis as a potential risk area so you can use the resources you already prepared. (See I told you being proactive would come in handy!). Immediately monitor social media and the news to see how your audience is reacting to the situation. Incorporate the most popular concerns in your initial statement. It is important to find a balance between a knee-jerk reaction and radio silence. Don’t provide a statement if all the facts aren’t available; however, an unnecessarily later response reflects a lack of care. Listen to your audience because they will tell you when the time is right.
While no one ever wants to be in a crisis, knowing how to properly manage the situation is key to being a successful PR professional. Don’t shy away from the challenge of unpredicted events. We may not get the messaging right on our first try, but over time, we will learn the best ways to reach and sympathize with our audiences. Look at the silver lining, after this year is over, we all will have ample crisis management skills to use in our internships, jobs, and daily lives!