Crisis PR

What do you do when a PR crisis threatens to hit your business? Mishandling it can wreck a reputation built over many years as well as terminating the career prospects of you and your management team. Addressing it confidently, on the other hand, can help your business weather the storm and keep its reputation intact.

Your business is our responsibility.

Publicists like us are often asked about crisis PR. Its need, typically, arises in situations or as a result of events where things go awry. An organisation can risk severe reputational damage, and consequently the likelihood of losing, perhaps forever, public or consumer credibility, sales, profits and shareholder value.

This, of course, is all about public perception. The most important thing, by far, should be that the organisation that has perpetrated the crisis then goes on to do the right thing, whether that involves sacking miscreants, closing down infected plants for a month-long deep-clean, isolating premises, bringing in specialists or appointing a retired High Court judge to uncover what went wrong and why.When such situations arise, or much better, when the first inkling emerges that they might just arise, senior company executives should make two calls: first to the organisation’s lawyers and then to the company’s PR advisers.

The role of PR advisers is to insist throughout the process that the company’s management does what it said it would, and should, do. That means maintaining a rigid focus on protecting its customer by keeping the media informed at all times, 24/7 if necessary, of developments and progress towards achieving these goals.

If this is carried out successfully, there is a reasonable chance that the organisation will win some degree of public understanding and acceptance which will enable it to get itself back, if slowly, to a “normal” state, as perceived by its stakeholders, as soon as possible. It is perfectly feasible, as Perrier, the French bottled water business has demonstrated, to do so.

Crisis situations are limitless in their scope: a team member is caught out doing something reprehensible, a semi-autonomous department of a major organisation is exposed as corrupt, a contractor is injured or killed on business premises, or, a coachload of senior citizens staying overnight in a tourist hotel is struck down by a mysterious bug which might, or might not, be the potentially fatal, legionella.

What do you do? In summary, unless you have confidence in your own in-house PR department to manage things for you, the answer must be, call in the people who handle this sort of situation for a living.

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