While crisis communications is the most high profile area of public relations practice, with PR agencies building their reputations on successful campaigns, and big corporations losing theirs on the back of unsuccessful ones, it is probably the most overlooked and undervalued service that PR agencies in Ireland offer.
This is not for a want of quality crisis management professionals in Ireland, and PR agencies are constantly trying to convince their clients of the importance of having well-prepared crisis communications and reputation management plans in place. This is the heart of the problem; most companies don’t see crisis communications as a process that needs to begin before the crisis takes place. In Paul Allen & Associates, we use the phrase ‘’we need to be at your side rather than at your wake’’.
The earlier an issue can be identified and steps taken to prevent it becoming a crisis, the more likely it can be resolved without lasting damage to the company or organisation. The old adage; ‘’a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes’’ is certainly true when it comes to crisis communications. Therefore, organisations must be aware of the kind of risks they face and have plans in place to deal with crises once they evolve.
Crisis communications and crisis management have never been more important due to the advent of social media and the 24 hour news cycle. On a quiet news day, what used to be minor news stories can be turned into major reputational threats and every mistake or misstep in a company’s everyday business can be exposed on social media. Social media also gives ample opportunity for the rapid spread of misinformation and lies, and this is certainly something which organisations need to be on the lookout for.
A common misconception about crisis communications is that it only applies to very large companies and organisations. However, the principles apply in exactly the same way to small businesses who can be damaged by local media reports or even rumours.
So how should organisations be implementing crisis management strategies? Our firm advises a strategy of risk identification and preparation. Companies need to analyse what kind of incident they are most likely to encounter and then carefully plan out the steps they need to take when the incidents occur. For example, airlines are vulnerable to plan crashes and strike action while hospitals are vulnerable to disease outbreaks and accusations of malpractice.
Once a wide range of potential crises have been identified, we then prepare detailed yet flexible plans to deal with each scenario and ensure that all staff are fully briefed on the exact steps they need to take.
Having these crisis communications plans in place and rehearsing them on a regular basis could be the difference between survival and extinction for you company. At the very least, bad communications when your reputation is at threat can have a major impact on the growth of your business.
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