In today’s fast-paced world and in our current climate, businesses are more vulnerable than ever to face a crisis that could negatively impact their public reputation and ultimately their bottom line. A crisis can happen at any time and can arise from various sources ranging from product recalls, to data breaches, to being misquoted in a publication and more. When a crisis happens, it can be challenging to know what to do, and the pressure to determine what the next steps for the company are can be overwhelming if made on the spot.
Being slow to react to a crisis or not responding at all can be viewed unfavorably by audiences, while at the same time issuing a rushed response that lacks thought can also be detrimental. That’s why it’s essential for businesses to have a crisis communications plan in place and a seasoned PR agency partner to can help streamline that process and create a dependable strategy.
PR Agency Solutions and Services for Creating an Effective Crisis Communications Strategy
A crisis communications plan is a comprehensive strategy that outlines the steps to take in the event of a crisis, including who to contact, what to say, and how to respond. The goal of a crisis PR plan is to minimize the impact of a crisis on a business’s reputation, operations, and finances. Your organization’s reputation is one of its most valuable assets, and because of that, it’s crucial for your organization to have a plan in place before a crisis strikes. The moment a crisis occurs and has been made public, if you do not have a crisis plan your organization will be vulnerable to unwanted criticism and will not have the opportunity to control the narrative.
In the event of a crisis, your reputation can be quickly damaged, and it can take a long time to recover. Having a plan in place can help protect your reputation by ensuring that your response is prompt, transparent, and effective. It can also help ensure that the public and the media receive accurate information, getting you back to business a
Taking on this strategy for an internal communications team can be challenging while balancing other priorities, that’s why businesses should seek the assistance and guidance of a PR agency.
Prepare Now with Strategic Guidance From a PR Agency
Below are the steps a PR agency will take to help build out an effective crisis communications plan:
- Step 1: Identify the crisis team
- The first step in creating a crisis communications plan is to identify the team responsible for managing the crisis. This team should consist of key stakeholders including senior executives, legal counsel, and PR, marketing, and communications professionals within the organization along with the external public relations team.
- Step 2: Define the crisis
- The next step is to define the types of crises your organization could potentially face, the vulnerabilities that exist within your organization, and the risks involved. Assess the impact each of these potential crises could have and how to directly address them. This includes identifying the cause of the crises, potential risks, and any legal or regulatory implications that could follow.
- Step 3: Develop key messages / Holding statements
- Once the potential risks and crises have been defined, the next step is to develop key messages that will be communicated to stakeholders. These messages should be clear, concise, and consistent across all communications channels. Your brand identity, mission, and values should be reflected in these key messages. While you will not know the exact messaging to draft until the crisis occurs, it’s important to have templated holding statements in place to use in the event that a crisis does occur.
- Step 4: Identify audiences
- It’s important to identify the audiences that could be affected in the event of a crisis. This includes employees, customers, shareholders, and the media. The key messages that were outlined in step three should directly address each audience and consider their reactions. Key messaging should be crafted in a way that they resonate with each of your key audiences. Based on the key messages and identified audiences, the next step is to identify how your organization will communicate with stakeholders during a crisis. This should include specific communications channels, such as social media, press releases, and internal communications. It’s important to note that while your social media messaging will differ from our media relations messaging during a crisis all facets of the overall strategy should align.
- Step 5: Media train spokespeople
- The next step is identifying and media training your key spokespeople who will be responsible for communicating with the press and other stakeholders during the crisis. A PR agency can work with your spokespeople teaching them techniques and skills to properly articulate the organization’s key messages and watch out for any sensitivities or red flags associated with the potential crises you’ve already outlined.
- Step 6: Monitor and evaluate
- Finally, in the event that your crisis plan does need to be put into action, it’s important to appoint a team to monitor the situation and evaluate the effectiveness of the communications strategy in real time. This includes tracking media coverage, communicating with the press and vetting opportunities for spokespeople, monitoring social media channels, audience engagement and sentiment, and gathering feedback from stakeholders. Your team can then strategically work to pivot your organization’s crisis communications plan if they see areas of challenge or opportunity.
If your organization is faced with the predicament of a crisis before you have a plan together, having an experienced PR agency on your team is crucial to help immediately assess the situation and spring into action. Your external PR team can help determine key audiences that need to be addressed, put holding statements and key messaging in place for the media, and appoint spokespeople to help carry out your message. Your PR team can also actively monitor the situation and make immediate changes or strategic decisions in real time to alleviate the severity of the crisis as it appears to the public and key stakeholders.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Overall, a crisis communications plan is a crucial strategy that every organization should have in place. It can help protect your organization’s reputation, minimize financial losses, maintain stakeholder confidence, demonstrate leadership, and ensure compliance with regulations. By being prepared, your organization can respond quickly and effectively to any crisis that may occur, which can help minimize the impact on your operations. Don’t wait until a crisis occurs, start developing your crisis public relations plan today with the help of a results-driven, well-established PR agency.
Looking for a PR agency? Konnect with us to learn how we’ve helped other brands create strategic crisis communications plans.