How to contain or defuse a media crisis: the magic of Crisis PR
Life is messy and crises are a fact of life. I’ve seen the best run companies, charities, schools and hospitals perform badly. Rarely does this stay out of the media realm. With Freedom of Information requests, the rise of the Citizen Journalist and less public faith in organisations and big business, it’s easy for reputations built up over years to be damaged in hours. It’s always the most damaging articles that live online, for years, regularly surfacing in search engines.
Here is what you do now, to ensure that when you drop the ball, the crisis is defused or contained, or at least balanced. Perform well and you can emerge unscathed. Perform badly – and I include hiding from the media and saying ‘no comment’ in that - and you can double your bad publicity: the bad coverage happens, gets repeated and the story becomes all about your insensitive performance.
1. Hire a PR consultancy now, who know how to handle crisis PR
2. Let them develop your Crisis PR communications manual, based on every crisis scenario you could face.
3. Stuff that manual with statements and Q&A guidelines for every crisis you could face.
4. Ensure you know how you’d respond, operationally, to a crisis. Who does what.
5. Check you have methods to ‘get to the truth’ if staff or distributors fail: people in the wrong tend to lie.
6. Get trained in handling media interviews with skill and confidence.
7. Appoint the PR consultancy to be your firewall or buffer, to liaise with the media and get some valuable breathing time when the media are breathing down your necks.
To be reminded of why Crisis Communications is so critical, think back to Thomas Cook, who did double-damage by being so slow to admit to their responsibilities over the deaths in their care.
Kay Williamson, owner-manager, Gravitas PR