What Are The Risks Of A Public Relations Crisis To Your Business?

[Part 1 of a 2 Part Series] Regardless of the size of your business, a public relations crisis can strike at any time. And the risks of a public relations crisis to your business can reverberate weeks, months and years into the future. In an age of fake news, tough questions and public scrutiny, preparing for a public relations crisis can go a long way in protecting your bottom line.

Preparing For A Public Relations Crisis – Before

A recent HR Insights by Zywave notes that “The first and best step you can take to improve how you handle a public relations crisis is to plan your response beforehand. Start by establishing a crisis communication team. If you’re a larger business, this team should consist of senior management, legal advisors and communications professionals. For smaller businesses, this team may simply consist of you, a public relations advisor and a lawyer you’ve established a relationship with and can call at a moment’s notice.

These individuals will be responsible for creating and executing the crisis response and managing the situation as it unfolds. All planning and communications—internal and external—should be dictated by the team. Nobody outside of the team should make any crisis-related decisions or speak on behalf of your business. Having a unified internal team is essential to maintaining control, which is difficult to recover if lost.”1

Preparing For A Public Relations Crisis – 3 Key Documents

Contact information is essential to document in print and electronic formats before a public relations crisis strikes. Some of the information to collect includes:

  1. “A list of reporters, investors, customers, business partners, advisors, employees, third-party experts, community leaders and anyone else who should be notified during the crisis. Have this list in an easily accessible location, along with contact information for your internal crisis team members, for immediate reference.”2
  2. “A company fact sheet, listing up-to-date information about your organization. If a crisis occurs, this information can be distributed to reporters at press conferences or during interviews.”3
  3. “A crisis communication plan is only a good precaution as long as it’s vigilantly maintained, updated and rehearsed. Members of the crisis communication team need to meet regularly to double-check contingencies and make sure all team members are well trained in their roles.”4

Preparing For A Public Relations Crisis – When It Happens 

“Do not wait to go public with any problem that affects your customers. While it may hurt your reputation to reveal an internal failure, the blowback your organization receives from the public will be much less painful in the long run than if you try to cover up the problem. An immediate disclosure will prevent people from questioning your motives for sitting on information and may even earn you some respect from customers who feel they have been apprised of the situation in a timely fashion. You don’t need to have all the answers, but you do need to own up to the problem.

Put together a release to be distributed that describes what happened and the situation as it stands. Let customers know what your next action will be and what changes they can expect in the meantime. Also, tell them where to direct their comments. If necessary, hold a press conference to avoid having to deal with multiple media requests.”5

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Understanding and managing the risks of a public relations crisis is just one way you can protect your bottom line. Across Canada, our insurance brokers can provide you with the most current commercial liability insurance options, risk management techniques and help you secure a competitive commercial insurance quote.

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1-5 Adapted from HR Insights © 2016 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.
This HR Insights is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice.

Forbes: Public Relations Crisis Management: Are You Prepared?

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