Blogs  / April 29, 2021

What to do during a PR crisis and how to move on

by Kelly Byrd, Director of Product Marketing

Before, during and after a PR crisis, information and communication are key.

There are very few crisis situations where less communication is better. It is almost always the case that more communication, and more well-informed communication, is the best strategy. That’s why media monitoring, sentiment analysis and competitive intelligence gathering are your best friends in a time of crisis. It is also critical to be able to measure how your response is resonating with your intended audiences and how your brand reputation is faring during a crisis.

Based on over a decade of experience in the communications technology space, we’ve collected some “dos” and “don’ts” during a PR crisis:

  • DO listen, assess the situation and get the facts. Part of your crisis management plan should be getting the facts straight before drafting a full response or communication back to your stakeholders. It’s ok to simply let them know that you’re on it until you have the information you need to fully address the situation. 
  • DO prepare to move fast. Even when you’re still assessing the situation and gathering the facts, it’s important to acknowledge the problem quickly and provide updates as they happen. You want to make sure you maintain control over your message versus letting the media or other external influencers hijack it from you. 
  • DO respond with honesty, clarity and responsibility. Once you have the facts ready, use your templates to develop your response plan and communications to your stakeholders. Tell your audience what happened, what you’re doing to address it, and what you’ll do in the future. If the crisis is your responsibility, be accountable for it and apologize—being honest is key to building your brand reputation.
  • DO emphasize with and support your stakeholders. A crisis is always a vulnerable time for everyone involved, including your employees, customers and other impacted stakeholders. Making support and empathy a priority in your communications will further contribute to building the trust with your audiences. 
  • DO measure your impact as things unfold. Tracking the overall trends, share and quality of top coverage for your brand and competitors, social amplification, message resonance, and most importantly, brand sentiment is critical during a crisis. All of these metrics will tell you how successful your crisis response is, and what you still need to address. 

75% of those in a better place post-crisis strongly recognize the importance of establishing facts accurately during the crisis. (PWC)

  • DON’T avoid a crisis. It should be obvious that simply avoiding a crisis will not work. A communication vacuum on your end is sure to be filled with messages from others, including the media, the influencers and your competitors. When you don’t yet have an answer, be honest about that. Also, go above and beyond by determining how you can best serve and support your audiences during a crisis, and acting on it.
  • DON’T go to extremes. One extreme is prioritizing only the crisis and nothing else, while your business needs to continue to operate. Another extreme is doing business as usual. As always, evaluate and reassess your business priorities, keeping the overall organizational goals in mind. And don’t forget to review your planned communications activity, such as scheduled social media posts, to make sure only the appropriate communications go out at this time.
  • DON’T be unavailable, respond too quickly or too slowly. Honesty, transparency and timing are everything during a crisis. “No comment” is not a response that will elicit trust from your stakeholders, so it’s important to always be prepared with an answer, even if it’s just the facts and what you’re in the process of doing to address the situation. And then, as soon as you have the information you need, respond right away.

Phew, you’ve handled the crisis. Now what? 

The most valuable action you can take after the peak of the crisis has passed is to harvest your learnings. The last element in the PR crisis data cycle is “analyze”, and rightly so. Now that you’ve got lots of data collected and measured, what are the key takeaways that you can use to secure future success in a crisis situation?

Make an honest post-crisis assessment by asking these questions: 

  • What worked well during the crisis, and what should we repeat in the future?
  • What didn’t work during the crisis, and what should we change or improve going forward?
  • How well did we handle the crisis as a team? 
  • Is the PR crisis really over, or do we still have issues to address?
  • How do we repair what’s been damaged (e.g. brand reputation)?

Once again, while keeping track of the trends, top coverage, and competitors is always needed, brand sentiment analysis stands out post-crisis because it is one of the best metrics of your brand reputation. Crises often take time to subside, and some crises could lay dormant for a while and then start up again. Continuing to monitor your brand sentiment will give you a view into the status of your brand reputation following a crisis. It will also tell you whether there is still some work to do.

Be prepared and proactive with real-time data.

Information is king during a crisis, but the integrity of that information is vital. Onclusive gives you access to the most complete and accurate digital media set on the planet, along with useful tools like scheduled real-time news alerts and social media engagement analytics to alert you to the early signs of a potential crisis, the ability to organize the news into multiple categories, tracking your progress over time, and more.

Join us for Crisis Communications: Preparation & Management Essentials webinar on Thursday, May 13th. In this session, our panelists will discuss steps for building effective crisis communications preparation and management plans, what to do during a crisis, as well as how to move forward.