How do you deal with a PR crisis?

Crisis PR: Help in times of need

Crisis PR definition: what is it?

The term crisis PR, PR for public relations, stands for a form of public relations that is above all specialized in crises is.

To do this, however, a company must first determine what a crisis is.

Generally referred to as crisis (from Greek crisis = Decision) a difficult situation that one Turning point in a development represents. A decision situation arises.

Be evoked Crises due to differences of opinion. Since there are more frequent changes in both social and economic policy than in the past, crises occur much more quickly. The aim of crisis PR is to avert possible damage to the company.

This includes good preparation to take preventive action and Recognize crises as early as possible. Crisis PR is active during the corporate crisis and records the public communication processes, whereby a loss of reputation can be recognized and averted.

The follow-up is also part of it, that is, the Evaluation of the measures taken during the crisis and its successes or failures.

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Crisis PR: Examples of various corporate crises

There are the following types of crises:

  • Balance sheet crises

    This refers to crises that are triggered by economic difficulties, such as bankruptcies, mass layoffs and site closings.

  • Communicative crises

    They arise from scandals, for example when it became known that horse meat was produced in a lasagna with beef as convenience food or the VW corruption affair in 2005, which involved bribes and pleasure trips for the works councils.

  • Operational crises

    Disruptions in operations, accidents due to human error, such as a damaged tanker, or product failure, e.g. due to failed brakes.

Sometimes in a company crisis in exogenous and endogenous factors the cause of the crisis. For example, crises triggered by hacker attacks, food extortion and kidnappings are not at fault. On the other hand, there are also externally triggered crises that are ultimately rooted in the company itself.

So it came to a scandal when Dickmann’s had one of them shown in a wedding dress on a pack of chocolate kisses, alluding to the royal wedding in Great Britain. Actions like these can easily lead to a shit storm if a company agrees Suspicion of racism or subject to discrimination.

The importance of crisis PR

There are innumerable Negative examples of poor crisis communicationsuch as the Love Parade 2010, Berlin Airport, Stuttgart 21 or, for some years now, the VW emissions scandal.

Keeping silent makes it worse. This is the case in relationships; it is no different between companies on the one hand and the public on the other. However, there are some no crisis PR at all or the wrong tactic.

The consequences:

  • The employees are insecure.
  • The customers are upset.

Both dangers are not to be underestimated: who is no longer identify with his company can leave it easier. Anyone who, as a customer, is dissatisfied with the product or not convinced of the crisis PR will go to the competition in the future.

If the company manufactures consumer goods, it should not be forgotten that its own employees are also consumers. Both Dangers can influence each other and lead to the premature termination of the company: If there is a lack of employees, the demands of customers cannot be met.

Are the customers upset break the sales numbers one that calls for redundancies in the long term.

FAQs on crisis PR: Tips from Klaus Eck

we have with Klaus Eck, Founder and managing director of the Munich agency d.Tales, talked about crisis PR. He answered the most common questions on the subject for us:

What is a PR crisis and when does it start?

You can recognize a PR crisis by the fact that it damages a brand. Often crises are diagnosed far too early. Only when a negative topic receives greater media attention can it be described as a PR crisis. Otherwise, it is often just an upset because some customers complain without it spreading any further.

How would you describe the essential elements of crisis PR?

Companies should prepare as well as possible for potential crises. As part of crisis prevention, it makes sense to develop your own ability to react. For this purpose, it should be defined who is responsible for what in a crisis PR case and at which touchpoints the responses are made.

In addition, a crisis PR team should be put together very quickly and manage the reactions to the crisis. It is important here to plan enough resources. First of all, it is a matter of classifying the severity of the crisis and responding appropriately. Ideally, those responsible are easy to reach and show a personal attitude in times of crisis.

Often facts are brought into focus so as not to make any further mistakes in communication. Many stakeholders would like a personal reaction. PR crises are decided on an emotional level. Therefore, it is a matter of clearly showing empathy and using the crisis measures to win back the sympathies that have been lost.

When should those affected react at the latest and how?

You should be aware of the crisis at an early stage, evaluate it and seek advice. External crisis advisors have the advantage that they are not so emotionally affected and that they bring neutrality into crisis planning.

It is unwise to react too quickly to a crisis. As a company, it is always about playing through possible crisis scenarios and reacting to them appropriately. As soon as the issues have been identified as such and the facts are established, the crisis PR officer should take a stand.

If the PR crisis is clearly related to the conduct of a company, there is no point in denying the legitimate allegations and gradually admitting them. With the salami tactic, a company quickly loses all sympathies. Instead, it is advisable to focus aggressively on transparency. This can regain some trust.

What role does the internet play in the emergence of PR crises?

A very big part. Many companies rely on dark sites that can be activated in the event of a crisis in order to counter the criticism with their facts. This is not absolutely necessary in the age of social media, because owned media information can now be disseminated very easily and quickly via social media channels and blogs. A content hub as the center of one's own crisis communication makes sense, however, so that the stakeholders can get information about it quickly and well.

Due to the enormous speed of distribution on the internet, companies often need personal support very quickly so that they are prepared for the onslaught of inquiries. Influencers and journalists should always be taken seriously and provided with comprehensive information.

Issues can be followed very well on the Internet. Monitoring makes it a lot easier to keep track of things even in real time. Twitter is also very helpful for this.

How does social media help defuse them?

Well-networked PR actors and corporate influencers can use social media to give good and personal answers very quickly and provide their stakeholders with their view of things. Reactive agenda setting helps the company to react strongly.

If enough influencers report positively or neutrally about the company, this has a positive effect on the reputation and at least protects the brand a little. Anyone who has a good network benefits from it in a crisis situation because there is already a basic level of trust. The organization can build on this in a crisis.

An integrated content strategy makes companies more responsive if the content team can react very quickly to the current information situation. Those who master the agenda setting themselves with their content marketing will find it easier to make the desired content effective in a cross-media manner, even in times of crisis.

An advertisement in a large daily newspaper is no longer up-to-date and does not generate trust, even if it is advertised in large letters. This is one-way street communication and symbolizes the unwillingness to really face the criticism, even if the opposite is claimed. Instead, the budget should focus on professional content marketing in order to reach your own stakeholders directly. The wastage is much less.

How does crisis PR differ in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) compared to corporations?

Smaller companies often cannot or often do not want to prepare so intensively for crisis PR topics because they shy away from the costs. In contrast to SMEs, most corporations are obliged to be transparent because they are listed on the stock exchange. The coordination in corporations often affects a large number of corporate fields, so that it is very complex to operate crisis PR. For smaller SMEs, crisis PR is often a matter for the boss, but it should still be supported from outside in order to take the emotions out of the crisis topics.

What are the most common PR mistakes companies make?

Many play for time in the hope that the crisis will remain a minor one. Sometimes those responsible feel too strongly attacked themselves and react too emotionally to an issue, evade or even tell the untruth. As a result, they often exacerbate the crisis because they lose the last of their trust.

Out of false pride, some try to cope with the crisis on their own and forego external support, which would be important in order to keep a little more distance from the crisis. Unfortunately, the term shitstorm is often misleading and expresses the misunderstanding that social media is not that important. After a brief excitement, it will pass again, quite a few believe wrongly.

Can PR crises be avoided?

Many PR crises can be mastered with more transparency and an open corporate culture. Those who allow internal criticism become aware of their own issues at an early stage and can try to eliminate the errors before a PR crisis occurs. In addition, it is worthwhile to provide resources for emergencies as part of crisis prevention and to build up a good network among journalists and influencers.

Are there limits in crisis PR?

Communication is not always the problem; it could be technical problems, for example. Crisis PR cannot resolve fundamental problems that are located in corporate strategy. That requires a decision by the management.

Tips for crisis PR: This is how companies should proceed

Certain mistakes in dealing with corporate crises can be observed again and again. In order to avoid that, should in case of a crisis these tips get noticed:

  • Signal transparency and openness

    Far too often, information is kept secret or insufficiently informed. This helps to stir up distrust and criticism. Good crisis PR therefore includes dealing transparently and openly with the crisis. However, no hasty promises should be made here as long as no background or details are known.

  • Think first, then act

    Once a crisis has been identified, action must be taken quickly, no question about it. Even if a party advertised with the slogan “… concerns second” before the federal elections: It usually makes sense to turn your head first and then take action. Because there is one thing that crisis PR shouldn't be: blind activism, in which those involved run around like headless chickens, the main thing: busy. For this it is important on the one hand to be empathetic towards those who may be affected, on the other hand to keep a cool head and not panic.

  • Classify the criticism

    If the wave of outrage strikes against it, it is important to see what the criticism might be and from whom it comes. In some cases, they are the usual suspects, that is, trolls who have contradicting and not necessarily well-founded opinions on any subject. Rubbing yourself against these is not very effective. This gives his statements more weight than they deserve and can only make others aware of the trigger. However, if the critical voices increase, the arguments should be examined and the course corrected if necessary. In this case it is important to communicate that you have understood.

  • Responsive to the needs

    In the past, mistakes were made more often in the event of major accidents. A well-known negative example of unsuccessful crisis PR is the accident of the Love Parade 2010. Instead of focusing on the regret about the catastrophe, the mayor at the time made the mistake of looking to the victims to blame. The crisis PR of the police press spokesman in the context of the deadly rampage in Munich in 2016 was different. It consisted of a factual, calm information style that left no room for speculation and thus contributed to calming the public down significantly. It is important here to strike the right note, that is, the other person should not have the feeling of being taught.

  • Take responsibility for your actions

    One problem with crisis PR is the arrogance of management, who consider themselves infallible. This, however, prevents insight and a critical view of one's own part in the crisis. This means that the same mistakes can happen again and again. On the other hand, those who take responsibility contribute to de-escalation in communication with critics.

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