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Principles of Crisis Management

How you manage a PR crisis can make or break your company. No matter the industry, businesses are vulnerable to a range of risks, many of which have the potential to damage brand reputation, revenue, customer attainment, and loyalty, among other impacts. Here are some tips to keep you in control and mitigate harm.

Assess

Take a critical look at your company and make a list of your risks. In collaboration with your department heads, examine your exposure to personnel issues, business conflicts, industrial accidents – anything that could publicly jeopardize confidence in your firm. It’s hard to prepare for problems you don’t anticipate. Research the crises that similar firms in your field have encountered, and observe what worked and didn’t for them.

Plan

Robust, methodical communications planning is the foundation of solid crisis management. Look at your risks and create a template for how the firm would respond in each case. This should include chain of command, media relations, client relations, employee relations, and internal communications. Make sure you have clear guidelines defining who is responsible for what under various conditions.

Investigate

If a crisis is already occurring, put your plan into action as soon as possible. Make the effort to get the facts first; you must know the whole story before you can predict how your stakeholders will perceive the situation. This is often a time-consuming step, but a crucial one. However you decide to communicate, you must equip yourself with as much information as possible.

Be Prepared for Difficult Questions

Crisis media relations can be the hardest part of an already taxing situation, especially for those businesses that rarely speak directly to the public. That’s why it is important, at the beginning of the crisis, that your company’s communications apparatus follows the plan when developing statements. It is always better to over-prepare than to be caught off-guard and make a PR mistake that will make the situation even worse. Think of the questions you’d hate to be asked and spend extra time preparing for them – appearing dishonest or out of your depth on TV can have disastrous effects.

Debrief

Once the crisis has abated, it can be tempting to take a breath and move on. Don’t. Analyze how you and the plan performed, and revise it where necessary. A crisis is only a total loss if you don’t learn from it.

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