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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.

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.

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 restitution 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.