How to Handle Crisis with Public Relation Skills

Crisis management is an essential PR skill. A well-managed crisis can result in an enhanced image rather than a damaged one. Identify potential crises, draw up contingency plans, and you will be able to keep a calm head should disaster strike.

Being Prepared for Crises

Every organization is a target for crisis. It may come in the shape of fraud; a leak of sensitive information; a hostile takeover bid; robbery; a dangerous product or design fault; sabotage; blackmail; kidnapping; boycotts; natural disaster such as flooding; environmental damage and pollution; or accidents, such as a fatal factor fire. Crises can strike at any time, yet, despite their unpredictable nature, they can be planned for. Examine your vulnerabilities and take pre-emptive action to reduce risk by strengthening your organization. Identify all the things that could go wrong within your organization, however unlikely.

Public Relation Skills

Drawing up a Crisis Plan

Plan for even- contingency and be ready to respond proactively. Take your list of potential disasters and draw up a crisis plan for each scenario. Include information on what action will be taken by whom to inform relevant staff, official bodies, the media, and the public. Do not limit training to head office staff; if a crisis happens in another location, staff there will have to cope with the initial impact. Plan for every eventuality.

Implementing the Action Plan

However carefully you have planned, when disaster strikes, stress levels will be far higher than experienced during dry-runs. It is important to select members of a crisis team for their ability to remain calm and in control while under pressure. This skill may be stretched to the limit. Every member should have a copy of the crisis plan and be aware of what is expected of them, what the boundaries are, and who is in charge. You may-need to set up freephone helplines; organize a product recall, including media advertising and mailshots to product owners; or you may need to hold a press conference at very short notice. Your crisis manual should contain details of how to implement these key crisis actions, making your task more straightforward and enabling you to cam- it out with minimum delay

Managing the Media

Disasters make news. Little-known organizations can suddenly find themselves thrust into the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Effective media handling during a crisis is essential if you want to get your message across and help shape a positive image for your organization, even in adversity. Media attention in a crisis may be unavoidable. Draw up a protocol stating who may and may not comment to the media and make staff are aware of this before a crisis occurs. Dealing with aggressive, probing journalists is difficult, so ensure that all spokespeople have undergone media training and know how to field difficult questions. In your crisis manual, list likely tricky questions, as well as good answers to them. Decide how you want to handle the media. You may want to hold a media conference or briefing, or just issue press statements and news releases. Your approach may be proactive, or you may choose to reactively respond to media enquiries. There is no one right way because each crisis demands its own approach.

Public Relation Skills

Looking after Employees

Staffs are an important audience in their own right, so make sure that you keep them informed during a crisis. Brief employees during a major crisis so that they are up to date on what happened and why. Hold regular briefings to keep them updated on the situation. Use the company intranet, issue memos, or hold meetings. When the crisis has abated, do not overlook the possible effects of crisis upon staff. Depending on the nature of the incident, they may be upset and traumatized. Assist employees in dealing with what may have been a difficult or anxious situation. If appropriate, offer some time off work, provide stress counseling, or find other ways to assist affected staff.

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About the Author: Marie Mayle is a contributor to the MegaHowTo team, writer, and entrepreneur based in California USA. She holds a degree in Business Administration. She loves to write about business and finance issues and how to tackle them.

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