Crisis PR, Communications and Management

Signs You Need to Call a Crisis Manager and Communicator

We’ve all seen a lot of crises in our time and thought “Wow, they should have seen that coming a mile away!” But we still wonder if it happens to us will we see the signs and do something before a crisis becomes a public one, damaging reputations and eating up a lot of your company’s time and money.

Over the last 16 years as an agency public relations consultant I’ve been tapped to handle a lot of crises because of perspective and experience. There really is no substitute for experience when it comes to a crisis manager. Experience teaches you the stuff no training program or university can.

I was fortunate (unfortunate?) to experience major crises by accident early in my PR career. I found myself in situations with clients who had been proactive, positive PR clients whose projects turned to intense reputation-damaging situations. This real-life experience is some of the best training for a crisis manager. Turning a previously positive campaign into a ground war against a reputation-damaging issue takes special skills.

Here are the signs you need to call a crisis PR manager quickly:

  1. You are making a major change in the company. Could be positive, could be negative. A move, a new facility, new leadership, putting real estate up for sale, downsizing/rightsizing, launching a new product or service that will supplant and replace a current product or service. These “reputation triggers” if not handled correctly can become a crisis. They also offer a unique opportunity to build trust and ambassadorship among your team and customers.
  2. You are making an acquisition or a merger. This is one of the toughest situations that if mismanaged will erode trust with customers and employees. Get ahead of this with a strategic communications plan for all audiences.
  3. You are filing or applying for anything public. Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law is a wide-reaching public information law. Do you understand it? PR pros are experts at navigating these issues and helping you be prepared.
  4. You are in a contentious lawsuit. Do you recognize the opposing counsel as someone who is routinely on the news or in the news? Do not wait until you see the plaintiff telling their story about you or your company on the news.
  5. There is a major legal issue facing your company or industry. Has this issue been in the news and you’re afraid someone is going to come knocking on your door to ask about it?
  6. A top employee of yours has gotten arrested and/or will get arrested for something either morally unacceptable OR has to do with the company (fraud, embezzlement, etc.). There is a little box on all police reports for a person’s employer. Most people tell the truth here. The issue can reflect poorly on your company even if the crime is not related to your business. But if the crime happened at your business, you can almost guarantee media will be at your door.
  7. You think someone on your team is leaking bad information to groups outside your company. Moreover, has anyone threatened to call the media about an incident with your company? Listen to these clues.
  8. There are widespread rumors among your staff and/or your customers. Could be small or large. Understand if these are garbled messages or if they spell real trouble.
  9. A reporter is knocking on the door or calling you right now. Do you know what to do to contain the situation and not make it worse? Having a plan helps. Having an understanding of how reporters work helps. Having a media policy helps. So does having a PR rep to help you immediately.
  10. 10. Your gut. Trust it. If you think it looks bad, it probably does. Run it by a professional – get some expert, objective, unbiased outside analysis and help.