Houston, we have a problem …
Almost half of the companies in Germany did not have a crisis management response team until the COVID-19-Pandemic. Although many companies try to withstand crises by simply ‘sitting them out’, this usually leads to an even greater loss of trust. Fortunately, crises can be contained or even prevented through targeted communication. But what exactly does crisis PR have to do? And what roles can a PR agency play in crisis management?
The most important thing at the beginning of a crisis is to assess it as such – quickly and correctly. As a rule, crises do not happen overnight. Furthermore, they don’t just happen within the company and instead have public impact. So essentially, they are a potential risk that can damage the company’s image.
If, for example, complaints about a product or service of the company accumulate, then intervention should take place – at the latest as soon as the first comments appear on social media. If, in a next step, journalists and influencers then contact the company directly with critical questions, there must be clarity internally about who responds and how, in order to minimize the negative impact.
Crisis and communication
Before a crisis even occurs, every company should prepare for a possible crisis event. This includes the provision of a (small) crisis manual, in which all scenarios and steps for coping with them are included. A crucial point here is the distribution of tasks and responsibilities among individuals in the event of a crisis.
If the crisis occurs, it is a question of the concrete implementation of the measures according to the crisis manual. What exactly is the crisis? In which phase of the crisis are we? Who do I notify first and what information do I pass on? Which communication style fits this situation and who is the target group? According to the answers to these questions, context-specific statements, press releases and mails are drafted. In addition, contact is maintained with journalists and influencers in order to maintain a relationship of trust.
Role of the PR agency
An experienced PR agency can relieve the company of a lot of its workload before and during a crisis and often deals with crises more confidently because there is a level of professional distance. Especially the preparation of the crisis manual is part of the daily work of agencies. Agencies can also provide good help with regard to operational implementation in the event of a crisis, because there is enough manpower with crisis experience to be able to react quickly and precisely. It is important that the agency has a fixed contact person on the customer side, if possible, to enable seamless communication. After all, acting and reacting promptly is the key to successful crisis communication.