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Crisis comms: the PR you don’t need… until you do

Posted by Megan Hill on 20th May 2021

There are some things in life that you need insurance for. Would you buy a house and not look after its contents? Would you drive a car without knowing you’re covered? Would you jump out of a plane without a parachute?!

No. Well, base jumpers aside.

You may not realise it but having a crisis communications plan with your PR agency is like having insurance for your company.

PR is here to make sure your business’s key messages are at the forefront for all to see. Letting prospective customers, stakeholders and employees know the most positive aspects of the company.

But if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that everything can change overnight.

Technologies break, people make mistakes and cybercrime is on the rise. Not to mention the fact that the consciousness of the consumer is only rising, and social media provides the perfect outlet for people to share any and every opinion they have directly with a company and its followers.

Basically, businesses have never been more exposed than they are now.

And we all know how negative press can affect a business, not just from a PR perspective, but in the form of damaging your reputation or in the worst-case scenario, losing cliental.

But never fear, PR is here.

How does crisis comms work?

A crisis comms-trained PR agency will prepare for all your worst-case scenarios. They will stress test your business, identify any potential weak points and come up with a crisis communications plan to deal with any issues that might arise.

They will also be on hand to put that plan into action, acting as a buffer between your company and the media. Drafting statements, taking phone calls and generally freeing up your time to deal with finding a solution to whatever has gone wrong.

Why can’t I do it myself?

Of course, companies have employees who can jump in and help right the ship if something goes array. But relying on internal thinking for an external-facing problem is not always the best way forward.

When things go wrong, tensions run high. It’s natural, but it doesn’t always lead to the most productive or effective solution to your problem.

When the phones are buzzing and journalists are quizzing you, wouldn’t it be so much easier to pass them on to your agency to deal with, safe in the knowledge that they have a pre-approved plan in place?

After all we are the experts in media relations and in some cases, PRs have even been able to spin a crisis into a PR campaign that will go down in history…

When has crisis comms been effective?

KFC is a great example. In 2018 KFC ran out of chicken. Yes, the one thing they sell. Was it a disaster? Yes. Did the PR team falter? No.

Without missing a beat, they took out a full-page spread in both The Sun and the Metro with an image of an empty bargain bucket and the name KFC reconfigured to FCK. The picture was also shared all over its social media channels trending alongside the news of the chicken shortage. The move was bold, but effective.

What could’ve been a PR disaster became PR legend.

Now, we know it’s unlikely that the tech sector will be taking out full-page ads in national tabloids to apologise for a chicken shortage. But the point is that predicting and planning for the worst paid off.

Having a strong crisis communications strategy in place with your PR agency is like an insurance policy, you are prepared for every eventuality.

Afterall, if you fail to plan you plan to fail.

Megan Hill