According to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, PR or Public Relations is the process of building a reputation through what you say, do or through what others say about you. It is very important to point out that it is a strategic communication process that helps companies and organisations build relationships with their publics. Crisis management is a process in public relations by which an organization deals with a sudden emergency situation that might threaten its reputation.
Basically, both public relations and crisis management are about an organization’s reputation, the former focusing on building and managing that reputation year-round while the latter focuses on salvaging the reputation when a crisis hits.
PR crisis management is more than strategy management during a crisis; every company that values its reputation and cares about the relationship with its publics, manages its reputation proactively, showing the society its positive impacts all the time, not just in times of crisis.
A part of that proactive approach to PR crisis management is planning the necessary steps and actions to be taken even before a crisis event occurs. Planning and monitoring are what enables organizations to effectively and efficiently react in real time when a crisis hits. Every PR professional knows that fast response and reaction are a critical issue, so sharing as much information as possible in the earliest crisis phase is highly recommended – be it via social media, press releases or any other channel. Finally, being honest in times of crisis helps organisations build trust and credibility, which are the most important elements of reputation.
There are many examples of how organizations handled crisis management, some were successful and some unfortunately – not so much. One of the most popular examples of successful crisis management is Pepsi in 1993. It started with claims of syringes being found in diet Pepsi cans. Pepsi urged stores not to remove the product during the investigation. The organisation released a video showing the production process and demonstrating that such tampering was impossible in their factories. Another video was also released later, showing surveillance from a convenience store where a woman was inserting a syringe into a can. The crisis having been resolved, Pepsi ran a series of campaigns, thanking the public for standing by the corporation.
Another not so successful example of crisis management is Exxon. In 1989, an Exxon Corporation’s tanker ran aground in the Prince William Sound in Alaska. Millions of gallons of crude oil were spilled into the waters off Valdez, killing thousands of fish, otters and other sea animals. Miles of coastline were polluted. Exxon apparently did not have a plan in place (or it was not a good one) so they did not deal with the media and the public; There was no communication plan and Exxon only appointed a public relations manager 4 years after the incident, when it was too late.
PR crisis management is about being prepared and about planning. The truth is, an organization can never truly and fully prepare for a crisis, but doing something for society through the good and bad times or having positive social and economic impact immensely helps an organization’s reputation.
If you need any PR services including online PR, media relations, internal communication, crisis management or similar, I recommend M.A.D Communications, a Newcastle PR agency. They are a group of dedicated, highly-skilled, and passionate professionals and I working with them has been a true pleasure.