Storm survival: Masterfully managing through crisis

If you’re in awe of how fast news travels today, buckle your seatbelt. The frenetic pace with which information technology continues to evolve threatens to one day give light a run for its money.

The vast and rapidly expanding global network of social and digital news media platforms provides the unprecedented opportunity for small businesses and nonprofits to connect with the masses. The downside is that this communications dynamic can absolutely super-charge a public relations crisis.

At ruckus, we work to provide strategic counsel that keeps organizations out of hot water but most, if not all, organizations will face a PR crisis at some point. Most people can probably recall more than one over the past few years: remember Bud Light, H&M or Southwest Airlines? Whether it's a scandal, a negative review that goes viral, or a miscommunication that spirals out of control, how an organization handles such situations can make or break its reputation. 

Here are some key strategies for effectively managing a public relations crisis:

Advance Preparation

The military adage of “the best defense is a good offense” bears true. It is a best practice for any organization to proactively form a comprehensive crisis communication plan in place. Identify potential risks and vulnerabilities, establish a crisis management team with clear roles and responsibilities, and outline protocols for responding to different types of scenarios. These are not exercises you want to be figuring out while the crisis is unfolding.

Act Quickly and Transparently

In the event of a crisis, time is crucially important. Acknowledge the issue promptly, and be transparent with internal and external stakeholders about what happened and what steps you're taking to address it. Avoid the temptation to downplay or ignore the situation—it will only escalate further.

Take Responsibility

If your organization is at fault, own up to it. Apologize sincerely and take immediate and thoughtful action to rectify the situation. Demonstrating accountability and a commitment to making things right can go a long way toward rebuilding trust with your key stakeholders.

Take Control of the Narrative

Misinformation can spread rapidly. It's crucial to take control of the narrative by providing accurate information through official channels. Monitor social media conversations closely and respond promptly to correct any false or misleading information.

Communicate Empathy and Compassion

Show empathy for those affected by the crisis, whether they're customers, employees, donors or members of the community. Expressing genuine concern and compassion can help to humanize your organization and mitigate damage to your reputation.

Leverage Media Relations

Engage with the media proactively to ensure that your organization's perspective is accurately represented. Provide journalists with timely updates and access to relevant information, and be prepared to address tough questions with honesty and professionalism. Also, know your limits - if you don’t know the answer, say so but ensure you follow up quickly once your due diligence is complete.

Learn and Adapt

After the crisis has passed, conduct a thorough post-mortem analysis to identify lessons learned and areas for improvement. Use this opportunity to update your crisis communication plan, train members of your team on crisis response procedures, and implement any necessary changes to prevent similar incidents in the future.

By following these strategies and maintaining a proactive approach to crisis management, organizations can navigate even the most challenging crises with grace and resilience. 

Written by Lisa Luther, Director of Communications