Crisis management has always been about the extremes of the public relations rulebook, and in the last year this has been even more apparent. Any crisis situation in this pandemic environment is massively intensified and the niggle issues that usually fade into yesterday’s news quite quickly, have multiple reasons to be revisited and rehashed again and again.
Just recently the Meghan and Harry interview caused shockwaves across front pages around the world. Much debated by PR professionals was the time it took the Palace to respond. While for a corporate, this delay could have meant time for the story to rumble and get out of control, in this situation the delay was all about stopping to make sure there was no knee-jerk reaction, and that the response would begin to bring some Palace control back to the news agenda.
The response showed in one fell swoop why the Royal Family’s communications professionals are some of the most respected in the business. Less is always more when it comes to crisis responses, there is never any point getting into a he-said she-said debate.
There are four main components to any crisis management media statement:
1. Show you care
2. State your position – the facts
3. If needed, briefly give any important background
4. Focus on what you are doing to change the situation, to do better or how you will learn from what has happened
In one carefully worded statement – packed with affection, concern and an assurance to address the issues raised – the Palace showed that there is no doubt of the Firm’s care and commitment.
It’s important not to lose the human side in crisis management. Far too many issues played out in headlines lack empathy or even kindness towards the reality that if a story is gathering weight, it is because it has significantly impacted lives. People come first.
Many issues can be planned for and prepared against. With the right lens on all activity, a brand should also be thinking about what is suitable and appropriate behaviour.
The lessons for a corporate are clear and simple. If you have to find a way to hide something you are doing, it is never going to be good practise. Give communications experts a seat at the decision-making table and take their concerns seriously. Something that carries a risk of your brand looking bad is just that, bad.
Any brand that has been through the mill with media issues will know that sticky situations come back to haunt you. As soon as one issue becomes high profile, you should expect the media to trawl and find others around a similar theme.
The lesson for brands is to prevent these themes from reoccurring. Address problems before they become big issues, otherwise even the best crisis management experts will be hard pressed to stem the flow of negative news. If a problem is there, the long-term issue isn’t trying to keep it out of the press, it is addressing the business challenge that is causing this issue in the first place.
In most cases, a difficult crisis management situation is something that cannot be controlled; acts of god, accidents and emergencies. Some of these scenarios are those that can be planned for, and the better you plan the easier it is to apply those approaches to newly arising situations.
Think through the worst, and how business will handle it. What will the media want to know, what information do you need to get hold of quickly, and what will you have in place to support those affected?
Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse these scenarios. Both operationally and from a communications perspective. Do you have people in your team who can work fast, under immense pressure, or do you need some external help to plan for the worst? Sometimes just knowing who to call can be the best preparation you make.
Our crisis management experts have dealt with all kinds of high-profile issues, both when they happened and ahead of time planning for different circumstances and supporting brands to be as well versed as possible. From natural disasters to nautical nightmares, our team are here to offer guidance and first-class counsel to take the sting out of crisis PR.
If your business needs help or advice on crisis management, please do get in touch with us at email@example.com