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Public Relations Crisis Planning

The Value of Public Relations Crisis Planning

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Let’s face it, no company or brand wants to be involved in a public relations crisis – and we don’t want our clients to have to experience one. However it is a reality that exists, perhaps more so in the world of healthcare, so to mitigate against this we always recommend crisis planning. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail has never rung truer.

Public relations crisis planning is vital because a crisis will usually come unexpectedly and out of the blue. The media is poised and ready to respond 24/7 so time is of the essence. If you have to spend time preparing once the crisis hits, you will already be on the back foot.

Step 1: Before – public relations crisis planning

It’s impossible to know in advance exactly what a crisis could look like, but it is possible with each company or brand to take an educated guess. For example, if the client has a factory, there is the possibility of a fire, if the client has a food product there is the possibility of contamination and so on.

There are certain elements that can be put in place when a crisis is nowhere on the horizon.

Contact list – create a list of the key people who would need to be informed and involved in the event of a crisis. Ensure phone numbers and emails are up-to-date and create a hierarchy of who needs to be informed first, second and so on.

Prepare statements – brainstorm the problems that could occur and write a statement accordingly. If an approved statement is already on file, it can then be tweaked accordingly to the exact nature of the incident, for example, We can confirm that a fire took place at XXX (time) in our XXX (factory), but would like to reassure the public that no one was injured during this incident”

Channels – Consider the channels you will need to use if a crisis breaks both internally to staff and externally to members of the public.

Media train – it may be necessary to media train certain members of staff to ensure they are fully equipped with the tools necessary to deal with talking to the press in the event of a crisis. In this high pressured situation it is more important than ever to know how to handle the press and stick to consistent key messages.

And last but not least make sure these plans have been shared with the relevant departments and everyone knows how to access them should an incident take place.

Step 2: During – public relations crisis action

If a public relations crisis does occur, be reassured by the fact that the above planning is in place. Follow the steps in a logical order.

Agree the statements and key messages that you want to communicate internally and/or externally and put these plans into action. Make sure you are providing regular updates as this gives reassurance and only talk to the media when you are ready, don’t feel pressurised into talking too soon without all the facts.

Ensure you have regular internal debriefs to keep everyone in the loop.

Stage 3: After – public relations crisis evaluation

After a public relations crisis scenario it’s really important to evaluate how it went and be realistic about what went well and what could be improved in the event of another incident.

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