Handling Public Relations Crises
There are many kinds of potential PR crises. For businesses, governments and organizations, they can be broken down into four basic categories:
- Natural disasters
- Technical problems
- Human error
- Executive wrongdoing/legal problems
A good crisis management plan requires honest self-assessment from an organization. Where are the gaps potential problems could sneak through? Who are the executives that have a habit of saying the wrong thing to the wrong people? What are the business practices that could be considered unethical or even illegal? What are the essential services that would be knocked offline by a natural disaster?
Sometimes it's necessary to bring in an outside PR consultant to analyze an organization for potential crises. These people would have an easier time identifying questionable businesses practices without being labeled as a whistle-blower. They also know how to redirect media attention to diffuse a potential disaster or at least lessen the damage.
It's also essential that an organization have an official spokesman (and back-up spokesmen) to be the voice and face of the organization in times of crisis. This can be the CEO, an organization's president or a PR staff member who specializes in crisis communications. This person also should be a skilled apologizer. A heartfelt public apology can go a long way to healing a bruised reputation, but a stiff, legalese-filled "statement" might just make things worse.
Now let's look at a few of the different areas and industries in which PR professionals work.