How To Handle A Public Relations Crisis

Public Relations or PR, is the practice of managing and sustaining the spread of information about an individual or organisation to the public. It is a vital role for any company as it sustains their reputation and brand. We asked Anthony Burr, our very own Head of Public Relations, what he would advise when a company is facing a crisis that threatens their reputation.

In this modern world, information travels at lightning speed. You can set up a business from your living room, host a conference call across multiple continents and get the news as it breaks all over the planet in real time. The downside is that the bad news flows further and faster than the good and the even the most carefully constructed reputation can fall like a house of cards.

In just the last few months, we’ve seen headlines about the British Airways data breech, Amazon paying warehouse employees to say nice things about the company on Twitter, Google facilitating censorship in China, and Elon Musk smoking marijuana on comedian Joe Rogan’s podcast which caused Tesla stock to plunge and attacks across the media on Musk’s fitness to run a public company.

The firms I mentioned all have the funds and access to top Public Relations firms and should have a crisis management plan ready well in advance, covering the responses to a range of eventualities – similar to how the US army had a plan in place for their response to the unlikely scenario of a war with the British empire in the 1920s and 30s. Readiness is key.

For a smaller company, it can be tempting to ignore the risk and hope for the best, but with 65% of CEOs reporting that they’ve suffered a Public Relations crisis in the past three years according to a study by PwC, it’s crucial for any business of any size to be prepared.

My five golden rules on Crisis Management for any brand are:

  1. Have a crisis management plan in place well in advance
  2. Use a PR team who are experienced and knowledgeable about crisis management
  3. When a potential Public Relations crisis arises, get ahead of it before the news
  4. Be genuine, humble and emotive in your response
  5. Don’t just focus on the financials – look at the bigger picture

If you want to read more about my views on the topic, click a recent interview I featured in for Elite Business Magazine:

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Public Relations