Week #6 – Public Relations during Times of Crisis

Doorley and Garcia define crisis as a non-routine event that risks undesired visibility and threatens significant reputational damage. Public relations professional can best deal with crisis by planning and strategizing ways to avoid it; but should it occur immediate steps need to be taken to prevent further damage. 

Pre-planning is an integral step so that procedures are already in place when a crisis does occur.  The benefits of being prepared for a time of crisis include decreased stress because you will have all contact information readily at hand for immediate action.  You will know who the spokesperson is, who the crisis management team members are and who the key media contacts are both locally and nationally.

During the crisis you will give the public all of the information as quickly as possible, as well as, what is being done about the situation.  Your persuasive techniques and effective language skills can change or neutralize hostile opinions.

It is vitally important, especially in times of crisis, to be ethically responsible–to not use false or misleading language; to not deceive the public  by concealing information; and to not advocate what you do not believe. Put the public first. Take responsibility. Never say “no comment.” Be familiar with media needs and deadlines. Monitor news coverage and telephone inquiries. Provide a constant flow of information.

Employ the four stages of conflict management:

  1. Be proactive with activities and thought processes that can prevent a conflict from arising or getting out of hand.
  2. Strategic phase – convey the dangers and threats clearly and honestly.
  3. Reactive phase – employ strategies to assist negotiations and/or arbitration efforts to resolve any conflict.
  4. Recovery phase – use strategies to bolster or repair an organization’s reputation in the eyes of publics.

And finally, evaluate the effectiveness of your plan and strategies before a crisis happens;  make appropriate adjustments where necessary.  Determine if news coverage be positive if you take these steps? Will conditions be improved or worsen? Will public perceptions of the company or industry be improved? Will the communication be honest, open and ethical?

Sources: www.myprpro.com, www.globalblogweek.com, www.sjsu.edu/people/dennis.wilcox, Public Relations Strategies and Tactics.

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