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Use This 7-Step Guide to Maintain Stakeholder Trust During a PR Crisis

Navigating through a public relations crisis effectively is no easy feat. By following a structured plan, however, you can address the issue head-on, mitigate negative impacts and maintain trust with your stakeholders. To help you draft such a plan, here is a comprehensive crisis-handling guide that outlines essential strategies and steps to equip you with the tools needed for adept crisis management.

READ: Words Matter — Tips for Crafting Public Statements on Social Issues

Step 1: Assess the Situation Quickly

The first step in handling a PR crisis is to understand the full scope of the issue.

You need to gather all relevant facts and evaluate the potential impact on your organization. Determine the stakeholders involved, the channels through which the crisis has spread and how it might affect your company. Immediate and thorough assessment helps in crafting an informed and strategic response.

Step 2: Assemble the Crisis Team

Every organization should have a pre-designated crisis management team that springs into action when a crisis hits. This team should include members from various departments such as public relations, legal, human resources and upper management. Having a diverse team like this means that all aspects of the crisis can be addressed from multiple perspectives, facilitating a comprehensive approach to the solution.

Step 3: Develop the Message

Once you have all the facts and your team is ready, develop a clear, concise and truthful message. The key here is transparency and accountability.

Depending on the nature of the crisis, your message should include an acknowledgment of the situation, any steps taken toward resolving the issue and an apology if necessary. Remember, the public and your stakeholders appreciate honesty and directness.

READ: Boost Your Impact with a Successful PR Strategy: A Guide for Purpose-Driven Businesses

Step 4: Communicate Effectively

With your message prepared, decide on the communication channels that might best reach your target audience. These might include press releases, social media, email communications and press conferences. It’s essential to maintain a consistent tone and message across all channels. Tailoring your message to each platform while keeping the core message consistent is critical for effective communication.

Step 5: Monitor the Response

After deploying your initial communications, monitoring how these are received by the public and media becomes crucial.

This is where media clipping plays a pivotal role. By employing media clipping services, you can track coverage across various media outlets to gauge the public and media’s reaction to your statements and actions. This enables you to capture and analyze mentions of your organization in print, digital and broadcast media, providing valuable insights into the sentiment and reach of your message.

Incorporating media clipping into your crisis management strategy empowers you to navigate the crisis with informed precision. 

Step 6: Take Corrective Action

Based on the feedback and the ongoing assessment of the situation, take appropriate corrective actions. These actions can range from internal reviews and changes in policies to public restitutions or legal steps. Corrective actions not only help to mitigate the crisis but also demonstrate your organization’s commitment to making things right.

Step 7: Learn and Adapt

After the crisis has been managed, conduct a post-mortem analysis. Go over what lessons were learned and how these insights might improve your crisis management plan in the future. This step is vital for evolving your strategies and preparations, which should better equip your organization for any future crises.

Implement changes to your crisis management plan based on these findings to strengthen your approach.

Common Pitfalls: What Not to Do During a PR Crisis

In managing a PR crisis, certain missteps can exacerbate the situation. Here are key actions to avoid:

  • Ignoring the issue: Silence can be interpreted as indifference or guilt. Address the crisis promptly to show engagement and responsibility.
  • Overpromising: Avoid making commitments that your organization may not be able to keep. This can lead to further damage if promises are broken.
  • Blaming others: Shifting blame can appear defensive and unprofessional. Focus on solutions and taking responsibility where applicable.
  • Inconsistent messages: Delivering mixed messages across different platforms can confuse and alienate your audience. Maintain consistency in your communications.
  • Neglecting internal communication: Failing to inform and guide your own team can lead to internal confusion and inconsistent external communications.

By steering clear of these pitfalls, your organization can better manage a PR crisis while maintaining credibility and trust with all stakeholders.

Turning Crisis Into Opportunity

Handling a PR crisis is never simple, but with a structured approach, it is manageable.

Each crisis presents an opportunity to learn and improve. Remember, being prepared, staying transparent and maintaining open lines of communication are your best tools in turning a crisis into a step forward for your organization.

 

David H Lasker is the founder and CEO of News Exposure, a digital content solutions company specializing in media research and monitoring. Lasker has over 25 years of experience in the industry and focuses on TV and radio broadcast monitoring, media intelligence, and PR analysis.

Boost Your Organization’s Impact with a Successful PR Strategy: A Guide for Purpose-Driven Businesses

If your organization is doing important work and making the world a better place, you should prioritize PR strategy. By sharing your stories and expertise, you’ll increase awareness of who you are and what you do, boost your credibility and reputation, gain influence, and ultimately, make a greater impact. After all, isn’t helping more people and doing more good the point?

READ: The 5 Love Languages of Marketing

While there are many benefits that come from executing a PR strategy, businesses often get overwhelmed and stuck not knowing where to start. This can lead to either paralysis and not doing anything, or to an ad hoc approach of sending a press release one time and declaring “We tried PR. It didn’t work for us.”

Sure, there’s always low-hanging fruit and easy wins to be had. But if you want to see sustained PR success, you must get clear about what success actually looks like (beyond media hits) and then develop a plan to get you there. Take the time to think about how you expect PR to support your organization’s goals and commit to a handful of actions you’ll execute on a regular, ongoing basis. Even small efforts can help increase awareness and amplify your message. Following these steps and starting with manageable ideas is the best way to get results. 

Set goals

First things first, you must clearly articulate why you want to do PR.

How will PR support the organization and its goals? Perhaps it’s a priority to build your donor base, increase engagement on social media, or grow the number of people served this year. Goals could be sales/fundraising-related or focused on expanding an audience. 

When thinking about goals, you should have some way to measure results.

How will you determine if goals have been reached without a way to measure them? Some measurable results are simple, like increasing sales by 10%. When goals are more complex, think of measurable options that relate to the goals. If a goal is to build awareness, consider a measurable target of increased newsletter signups or inbound leads. 

Create a plan

While this is often the most daunting step, it’s also the most important one. This will help determine priorities, audiences, outreach, and where to allocate time and budget. The plan should evolve from the business goals to establishing PR objectives and how to achieve them.

Developing a SWOT analysis — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — will provide context and rationale for your plan. This analysis will help identify factors that impact the business both internally and externally and often will generate ideas that can be part your PR strategy. 

Then identify the target audience, which could vary depending on the goal.

Certain audiences may be end-users, clients, or donors and others may be partly related to sales or manufacturing. Think about the way these audiences receive their information, such as industry-specific publications, social media channels, or podcasts. 

READ: Determining Your Business’s Target Market – Why It’s Necessary and How To Do It

Next, determine your objectives – ways to reach these audiences.

This could include getting media coverage, earning awards, or generating positive social media awareness. Start with ideas that are small, manageable, and achievable. 

Finally, think about which messages you want to share with these audiences.

Which stories or expertise can you share that will educate, entertain, or inspire your audience? Your message must help your audience in some way. If the message isn’t meaningful, the odds of generating interest and getting them to act are low. 

Implement the strategy

When the goals and objectives are complete with appropriate messages to target audiences, the plan is nearly ready to be implemented. The last step is to create a PR calendar.

Create a calendar detailing planned business announcements, initiatives and campaigns; relevant holidays, observances and seasonal trends; upcoming editorial, speaking and award opportunities. For PR programs to be successful, you’ll need to be organized and prepared to meet editorial, event organizer, and award deadlines.

When to ask for help

While some PR objectives can be achieved without a professional, sometimes it’s wise to employ an expert firm or consultant. It may be worth outsourcing if your time is limited and your plate is already full. Implementing a PR plan doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does require dedicated time each week and consistent effort. If a plan isn’t successful immediately, keep at it. It’s said that PR is a marathon, not a sprint; often a little momentum is all you need to see results and notice an impact.

 

Rhiannon Hendrickson is a senior PR strategist and founder of Orapin, giving purpose-driven organizations the plan, materials, and support they need to increase awareness and expand their impact. 

The less said the better (sometimes)

If you can’t say anything good, keep thy mouth shut.

It’s never worked for me, but many the nun, mother, or pal suggested (a version of) this platitude whenever they sensed I was about to blow a gasket and comment in a way that I’d ultimately regret.

I think we’re all tired of COVID-19 talk, even if it’s hard to tear ourselves away from the news. Almost every company has come along with their “In these times of COVID-19, we are here to help” missives – and they should be. Crisis management as well as communicating with clients and personnel is never more important than when the world seems to be going to hell.

However, are we still reading every branded email that tells us their company’s policy for how they take care of clients and that we are all in this together? I don’t think so. Most of these emails appear to be gratuitous, ill-conceived attempts at keeping their client-base engaged. And that’s OK. The economy does need to come back and it will.

But at some point (that we are long past), we learned which sources and outlets can tell us about COVID-19 testing, protocols and care. Beyond that, it can seem, to the recipient of the clothing or ski equipment email, that reading the most current missive consumes valuable time and energy that could better be spent home-schooling, cooking and holding relationships together; we don’t care.

That’s when it’s time to say nothing. And that time may be now, which is in direct opposite of what public relations normally looks and feels like.

Public relations is communication. It’s about informing and telling a story. It’s about making sure desired audiences know how you’re different, how you behave better than competitors and what you bring to your clients’ tables.

But saturation wears people down. Getting daily “here’s what we’re doing” messages is tiresome. That is unless you’ve tweaked, realigned your business model, are behaving creatively or have something new and helpful to say.

Two examples: a caterer lost $20,000 worth of business in one week in March 2020, when months of scheduled weddings and bat mitzvahs went away. And then there is the hairdresser who can’t come within six feet of his clients any time soon — not because salons haven’t opened (they have, with restrictions) — but because just this week his husband tested positive and their teenage son began exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms over the weekend.

Both entrepreneurs quickly changed tactics and they do have a thing or two to say.

The caterer is now cooking family sized meals six days a week and she’ll deliver those meals —l prepped and ready — to your front door. In doing so, she’s quickly made up for the lost big event business because she communicates like mad — every day on social media.

The hairdresser’s put together “hair-loving” kits with products clients can use until they return to the salon. He texts everyone. He drops product off. People know about it and they feel better. Furthermore, he is now receiving much welcome support and love in a time when he might otherwise be losing his mind.

Both business owners are not only keeping their pre-COVID client base, but they’ve added customers.

That’s what worthwhile communicating looks and feels like in a time like this. It is mindful, it is not vacuous, it offers new information, and company updates that can and will make a difference to clients.

It is not duplicative of whatever corporate-speak COVID-19 email hit the inbox this morning. It is not condescending or simply a repeat of the morning news — distributed to an email address list for fear of not saying anything.

Worthwhile communication is helpful, it is informative, it is authentic and, most important, recipients are happy to get it.

5 Communication tips for hotels and restaurants when reopening

While nearly every sector of business was abruptly dropped into unchartered waters this year, the coronavirus has had a profound effect on the hospitality and tourism industries. With many reopenings beginning, and others on the horizon, here is what hotel and restaurant operators should consider to effectively communicate with guests.

Be concise and clear to manage expectations

It’s no surprise that everyone is learning to adjust to “the new normal.” To help calm consumer anxieties, it’s critical that businesses clearly communicate the ways in which things will be different when they reopen. From adding outdoor tables, reducing capacity and limiting indoor waiting areas, to managing the number of guests during check-in, be clear as to the changes guests can expect to see. Communicate these changes in advance of welcoming them, so there are no surprises. This might come in the form of website and social media messaging, outdoor signage or a pre-arrival email.

Communicate cleanliness and new standard operating procedures

Understandably, consumers are demanding more transparency surrounding cleanliness than ever before. For hotels, this could include everything from mobile check-in to increased daily housekeeping checkpoints. Restaurants may be implementing increased cleaning products and procedures, single-use condiments, menus, and more. Any new procedures that have been put into place – especially those that go above and beyond the government-mandated procedures – should be added to your website and clearly communicated via multiple channels to increase guest confidence while considering a reservation.

Be flexible

With regulations, guidelines and suggestions updated almost daily, travel plans are also consistently evolving. Businesses that demonstrate empathy and understanding in the current climate will stand out to consumers. Showing that your business is adapting by being flexible with reservation and cancellation policies (to the extent that you are capable) will help build brand loyalty in the long term.

Be authentic and available

While these past few months have changed life as we know it, it is crucial for your brand to retain its voice, and most importantly, its commitment to your core values. While messaging may lean towards being empathetic and reassuring during these times, remaining true to your brand voice – in a way that is also sensitive to the current climate – reminds customers who you are and why they care. If guests have questions, it’s important to be responsive. This can include everything from phone calls and email inquiries, to social media direct messages or public posts to address any concerns.

Present a united front

It’s important that your audience can easily find accurate information about your reopening or expanded offerings wherever they choose to interact with you. To that end, make sure that your phone message and website are accurate and updated, as well as your social media pages and other online platforms where potential guests may be searching, such as Google or Yelp. Place your announcements prominently and take advantage of any special COVID-19 tools these platforms may be offering to help spread your message.

This is a time of confusion for businesses and consumers alike. Stand apart from your competition by taking a position of control and leadership as it pertains to safely reopening, and clearly communicate it with your guests; they’ll be ready to come back before you know it.