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Role Of PR In Crisis Management

Crisis communication is a common topic of discussion across the industry because every organisation, big or small, honest or biased, planned or unplanned, is prone to a crisis. A crisis occurs even in the most well structured organisations as one cannot control human mistakes, uncertain situations and emergencies. Therefore, one must take precautionary measures for crisis management and to avoid the destruction of the reputation that took years to build.

Today, an increasing number of companies are investing more resources and time into emergency communication methods and planning. According to the Business Continuity Institute, over 84 percent of organisations have an emergency communication plan in place and 55 percent use three or more emergency communication processes. Yet nearly two-thirds are not confident about their preparedness for a crisis event.

Understanding Crisis Communication

A crisis is a significant threat to organisational operations that can result in tragic consequences if not handled judiciously. Crisis of any kind, threaten to tarnish an organisation's reputation. Some crises can even result in injuries, loss of lives and loss of market share. In crisis management, the focus is to lift the potential damage a crisis can inflict on stakeholders, organisation, and industry. There are majorly 3 kinds of threats - public safety, reputation loss and financial loss.

Effective crisis management plan, designed to protect an organisation and its stakeholders from threats, handles the threats sequentially. The primary concern in crisis management has to be public safety followed by reputation and financial concerns. Crisis management also includes the right communication plan with media as it helps in value added support and assistance of media. PR firms are a great help when it comes to managing reputation in media. All an organisation needs to do is designate a spokesperson and train them in dealing with the media.

It is critical to stay connected and engaged with the internal staff, clients and also with media during a workplace disaster. A crisis management plan is imperative to ensure that only accurate information flows during the crisis and there is no scope of misleading communications. An internal crisis communication strategy should revolve around providing timely, clear and accurate information to prevent inaccuracies and rumours.

There are many PR firms who are helping organisations with their crisis communication expertise. The expertise caters to defining the risks in an organisation's operations and manage them; crisis communication training or simulation; composing a handbook for crisis communication; operative support in solving a crisis situation and help after the crisis to regain the reputation.

Crisis communication refers to the systems, technologies, and protocols that make it possible for an organisation to effectively communicate during an emergency. It ensures the continuity of flow of information, business continuity and protection of employees during a potential crisis like fire, terrorism, endemic, reputation crisis, severe weather and crime.

Role of PR in Crisis Management

PR firms are specialists in creating and maintaining reputations and their expertise can be used to build rapport with customers, employees, investors, and the general public. Today, almost every organisation, even a newly formed start-up, is concerned about how it is portrayed in the public and therefore, they are increasingly hiring PR firms for building and managing their brand reputation and crisis management. There are a number of related disciplines that fall under Corporate Communications, such as Media Relations, Analyst Relations, Internal Communications and Investor Relations. PR specialists focus on building rapport with the public with the use of right words and right campaigns.

Disaster management is probably one of the most significant roles of any PR firm. Let's explore what this job entails:

  1. Offering Guidance and Advice

The first thing PR firms do in a crisis is analyse the circumstances and offer bespoke advice on what the organisation should do to keep the problem under wraps. To provide the right guidance, PR experts evaluate the background of the company, current disaster and its surrounding context, and finally, provide a step-by-step guide on managing the incident. For example, PR firms inform an executive which audiences they should address first while making a public announcement, which words they should avoid using, and so on.

  1. Respond Quickly

When it comes to crisis management, immediate and meaningful response plays a crucial role. It is important to provide relevant information to all stakeholders as quickly as possible. PR firms make sure that there is no post-crisis lag in communication as it is detrimental to the brand. For example, in the case of brand recall, any brand would want to contact the customers directly, before the local media outlets catch wind of the news. Having a PR firm monitor your brand's image will help you stay on top of what is being said about the organisation, both in the news and among customers. A PR team responds immediately, before a comment or conversation escalates, thus, helping in crisis management.

  1. Handling Media Attention

Whenever an issue related to the brand goes public, a PR firm starts working more “reactively”. They respond to what is happening in the media in no time and offer constant advice on how to handle the situation. Moreover, they draft statements and support materials on behalf of the spokesperson so that the company is in a better position to answer any questions presented to them by the journalists. In some cases, the PR firm might take over making statements on behalf of the client to ensure that the company comes off in the best possible light.

Principles of Crisis Management

While no strategy can completely anticipate every scenario, your crisis communications plan prepared by PR experts can help you minimize the chaos and loss of trust. Following are the core principles for crisis management:

  • Develop a command structure and follow the chain of command to effectively manage the flow of information which is crucial during a crisis. It is always important for any organisation to speak with one voice.
  • The official statements going in media on your behalf should convey trust, calm and compassion. The tone must be compassionate, transparent, proactive and truthful.
  • Never speculate. Push verified facts only.
  • Keep stakeholders in the loop for every communication that goes public.

Summing It All Up

In today’s world where communication is majorly driven by social-media, companies often fear negative publicity. As experts who specialise in building and maintaining reputations, PR specialists are often called upon for assistance to a company when a disaster strikes. They know how to change public perception with the right marketing campaigns and right words. Additionally, PR professionals know that aligning their clients with the right strategies can help to ease many issues that come with a public crisis.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” - Warren Buffet

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