Recently, there's been drama going on with my local school district. And just before the superintendent announced his resignation, the school board announced it had hired a public relations firm that specializes in crisis communications.

A local TV station reached out to ask me about crisis communications. Why would an organization hire a firm to help with a crisis? I thought I'd share right here the three things a crisis firm does for companies going through a crisis or managing tough issues.

1. Reputation Management

Crisis PR firms help protect and defend companies' and organizations' reputations. A crisis team manages reputation by doing things like coaching company leaders and other spokespeople on media interviews, town hall meetings and press conferences, as well as finding ways to better control the narrative.

2. Strategic Messaging

Crisis PR firms also help companies write strategic messages. Some people -- OK, a lot of people -- call this spin, and I hate that, because any good PR pro will tell you that your messages must first and foremost be true. And this is especially the case when you are trying to repair your reputation in the market and rebuild public trust.

The thing is, sometimes when you are in the thick of a crisis, you are too close to it, and you need outside experts who can see clearly your best messages and the best way to convey them. 

3. Preparedness

Finally, crisis communications professionals help companies and organizations be better prepared for future rough spots. They might recommend certain processes and ongoing training -- all with an eye to avoiding future crises or at least empowering you to respond to them more quickly and effectively.

A crisis can hit any firm or organization. It's important to keep in mind that a crisis doesn't have to be a company's own making. Bad weather can adversely affect operations and create a crisis-type of of event. One company's stock market stumble or a negative economic report can bring down an entire category of public companies.

Heck, a celebrity could say racist stuff in the same breath your company, as happened last year to the maker of Ambien. Or, your product could be blamed for the death of a beloved TV character, as happened last year to Crock-Pot.

You might never see the crisis coming. The point is every company needs to have a crisis communications plan -- perhaps some messages at the ready or a protocol in place -- and know who it might call in for reinforcements.

Published on: Jul 23, 2019
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