It is likely that at some point your business will experience a brand impacting public relations crisis. Advanced planning is required if you are to successfully manage and prevent a crisis from materialising. It is crucial that real or perceived threats to your reputation are anticipated, understood, and sufficiently planned for. While it is impossible to operate a successful business without any risk at all, advance preparation and a well thought out strategy can significantly reduce that risk.
Your best defence towards a public relations crisis is to be pro-active. Ongoing public relations and publicity will create a ground flow of public opinion creating an invaluable resource at your disposal. If your brand has a loyal and supportive following this will assist in turning over any negative allegation or incident associated with your brand. Furthermore, in the case of an accusation, a solid brand reputation will make any assailant think twice before accusing or involving your brand in a negative situation. This is largely due to the risk of their accusations potentially rebounding.
What does being pro-active look like? Melissa Agnes, crisis management professional and author of “Crisis Ready” outlines that instilling a strong crisis ready corporate culture needs to come from the top. Gaining support from key members of your institution can set in motion positive changes that can take your brand from being unprepared to crisis-ready. A shift in corporate culture towards a crisis-ready mentality can be obtained through a committed executive team. While it’s important to understand the value of crisis management, it is perhaps even more so to recognise where your organisation is lacking when it comes to crisis preparedness. These deficits often come through individuals at various levels who may not have any decision making power. As a brand, it is important to listen and react to any internal feedback that confronts an obvious weakness in your organisation, such as crisis unpreparedness.
As a leading crisis management professional, Agnes Melissa, recommends three ways in which it is possible to draw attention to that unpreparedness. Firstly, having an honest conversation with your leadership team with an open dialogue discussing areas of concern and worst case scenarios will help to identify concerning gaps. Secondly, you may want to enlist the assistance of an outside professional to underline where your organisation preparedness level currently sits. This may include an engaging and informative presentation to your team that will contribute towards their understanding of crisis management and prevention. Lastly, conducting a realistic crisis simulation is a highly informative and useful practise that will give your team a greater idea of the challenges they will face in a real time public relations crisis. A well-executed crisis response can be a positive facet to your brand reputation over time. These suggestions act in two ways, both revealing gaps in your organizations crisis strategy as well as contributing to that strategy by preparing your team with the knowledge and skills they will need to successfully manage a crisis situation.
Smart Phones, Social Media and Building Trust.
Outlining a clear strategy that will successfully manage your brand in a 21st century crisis is no easy feat. The most significant change being social media, with particular attention to the invention and wide spread use of the smart phone. This social phenomenon has changed the world we live in and as professionals your brand must adapt accordingly. A device that allows for instant communication can make it very difficult to get ahead of a situation as it materialises. It would be easy to view social media as your greatest enemy, but ultimately it is your biggest ally.
Social media should be an integral part of your crisis management strategy. Using smart phones to actively connect with your stakeholders gives you the power to build trust and connect before, during, and after a crisis situation. Social media is a powerful tool that offers the opportunity to directly engage, respond quickly and effectively. A well thought out social media plan builds credibility and leadership that transfers across mediums adding to your brands overall public image. Having a strong reputation allows you to isolate any crisis situation preventing it from impacting your brand as a whole. Compartmentalising a crisis makes it easier for your stakeholders to view a crisis as an isolated incident, bringing a proactive benefit of the doubt mind set. Establishing your brand as a trustworthy organization means taking that trust seriously. It is expected that your brand takes a pro-active preventative attitude towards potential and predictable risk in the corporate environment.
Be cognizant of the fact that a positive reputation is a company’s greatest asset. Taking just one preventative measure every day is a positive step towards crisis management. Building trust and credibility for your brand requires daily action. An action worth investing in, not only as a preventative measure in the face of potential crisis, but also allowing your organisation to emerge as a strong, credible leader. Consult an experienced public relations specialist who can guide you in the creation of an effective strategy that will safeguard your brand and its future. Crisis management begins with valuing your reputation. It is important not to underestimate its commercial impact.
 Regester, M., & Larkin, J. (2008). Risk issues and crisis management in public relations: A casebook of best practice. Kogan Page Publishers.
 Agnes, Melissa. (2017). “3 Steps to Gaining Leadership Buy-In For Crisis Preparedness”. Retrieved From https://www.forbes.com/sites/melissaagnes/2017/01/26/3-steps-to-gaining-leadership-buy-in-for-crisis-preparedness/#5c17aec79799
 Tynan, Dan. (2018). “4 Steps for Effectively Managing s PR Crisis”. ADWEEK. Retrieved from https://www.adweek.com/digital/4-steps-for-effectively-managing-a-pr-crisis/
 Agnes, Melissa. (2015). “The Secret to Successful Crisis Management in the 21st Century”. TEDX Talk, Melissa Agnes. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQGEPEaEWtg