Crisis Communications 101

By Nick Bucci, Communications Committee

Wouldn’t life be great if everything always went according to plan? Everyone would be so relaxed, without a care in world. Sounds pretty appealing, right? Unfortunately this isn’t the case and it certainly isn’t the case for the field of public relations. For someone working in the PR field, crises are common so it’s not a question of if, but rather a question of when a crisis will occur.

Dr. Otto Lerbinger, a professor at Boston University who specializes in communication theory said it best, “A crisis is an event that brings, or has the potential for bringing an organization into disrepute and imperils its future profitability, growth, and possibly, its survival.”

The best way to try to and avoid a crisis is to be proactive. Public relations professionals should pay attention to the middle levels of their organization, taking note of anything that could cause future problems. Most of the time there won’t be a problem, so it is vital to not slip up on a slow news day. Just because nothing is happening in your company on a particular doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done to prevent future crises.

When a crisis strikes the best thing to do is react quickly. In the past the phrase “the golden hour” was used to describe how much time a company or organization would have to respond to a crisis. In today’s age the phrase has been altered to “the golden minute.”

Social media allows publics access to information so much faster than before, so it is vital for PR pros to respond in a timely matter. The response should also be in the same medium that the company is hearing about the crisis. If the company is receiving tweets about a crisis, the company should respond via tweet.

It’s obvious that a crisis is no fun at all for a PR professional to deal with, however, it doesn’t have to be a completely daunting undertaking. As long as you are proactive, make a crisis communications plan and respond in a timely manner, your company stands a good chance of getting through the crisis relatively unscathed.

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