Crisis Management in Public Relations – What 2020 Taught Us

With 2020 came an ever-changing pandemic, social injustice issues, financial setbacks, and much more in-between. Because of these stressful times, countless crises arose and working on picking up the pieces across all kinds of industries led to many public relations lessons.

Lesson #1: Crisis Management in Public Relations is Really Important

Of course, we already knew how important crisis management in public relations actually is, but when have we ever been faced with crises of this scale? The best advice we can give you is to have a good crisis management plan in place and stick to it. However, you’ll want to remain adaptable, developing a plan that’s solid but that also leaves room for you to shift gears at the drop of a hat.

Crisis management in public relations is designed to lessen or prevent the damage that a crisis can inflict on an organization, stakeholders, or an industry and typically responds directly to issues with public safety or potential financial and reputation loss. However, crisis management is not just one thing but instead a framework that can be divided into three phases:

  1. Pre-crisis: Where you determine prevention and preparation.
  2. Crisis response: When must actually communicate and respond to the crisis.
  3. Post-crisis: When you brainstorm ways to better prepare for future crises while providing follow-up information and fulfilling any commitments made during the crisis response phase.

Although you can’t plan for everything, identifying various scenarios and steps to follow in advance is a literal lifesaver. Remember, not planning for a crisis is essentially the same as planning to have a crisis. Don’t fall into that trap. Start planning today.

Lesson #2: Communicate!

Communication when implementing crisis management in public relations helps keep a brand’s reputation afloat even during the not-so-stellar, unplanned, and entirely authentic moments. HOW you communicate during a crisis is critical to de-escalating the situation and preserving/restoring your brand reputation.

Tips for Crisis Management in Public Relations:

  • Reach out to stakeholders to check in, see if they are doing okay, and provide a support system, reminding them that you will get through it together.
  • Use all forms of communication (emails, letters, virtual forums, etc.)
  • Create weekly/bi-weekly calls both internally and externally
  • Be as responsive as possible
  • Constant contact amid a crisis is key

Crisis communications in public relations not only helps you build trust and credibility but also prevent the spread of misinformation and potential panic, and quickly realigns everyone with the overall management strategy.

Lesson #3: Leadership is everything!

There’s simply no time for worry or self-pity. You must spring into action to take care of your team and your clients and lead the way to collaborate on recovery. 

As the PR professional, you must:

  • Act decisively and quickly
  • Make the hard choices strategically and then act on them ASAP
  • Stay positive but real
  • Bring everyone together to address the challenges and know no positional boundaries, involving everyone in open and candid conversations regardless of where they sit as anyone could be the one to bring the best ideas to the table. 

Lesson #4: Stay focused on values and mission!

In times of stress, it’s important to help your client reaffirm what their brand is about and the values that guide their communications and decision-making. 

How you manage a crisis is one thing, but the true test is to be able to exemplify core values in even the most difficult times. This confirms that the brand is strong enough to weather a storm and fare well in the long term.

PR Tips

Here are some of our top PR tips to better manage when a crisis hits: 

  • Anticipate issues that could arise 
    • Check out companies in the same industry, what issues they have faced in the past, take current events into account…etc.
  • Conduct media training with your client to help them better prepare
    • Doing so beforehand will help them function better when under pressure
  • Figure out your messaging first 
  • Even without the problem’s details, you can evaluate the right kinds of tone/language to use. Make sure messaging is consistent, don’t change up months later.

Ready to take on a crisis? As the first certified Performance PR Agency in the country (with a string of awards to show for our PR efforts), we know exactly how to help. Get in touch today!