How to respond quickly to a PR crisis

Cyndy Hoenig of Pure PR discusses the importance of good communications in crises.
by Paula Burkes Published: July 4, 2013

Q&A with Cyndy Hoenig

Communications policy can avert crisis in response to market issue

Q: Lack of crisis communications easily can turn a minor situation into a full-scale disaster, tarnishing a company's customer and stakeholder perception, sales and share price. How can you protect that reputation and, if the worst happens, defend it?

A: First, it is crucial you have a communications policy that includes a process for tracking and responding to market issues effectively. A crisis can often be averted if you anticipate what's happening out there, rather than being forced to react to it. The policy should include a system for ensuring that the communications department and their agencies are quickly apprised of any developments to ensure you're all on the same page.

Q: How do you take control of a crisis?

A: Own it from the start. Although it's very rare that you can change negative opinion, you can contain and minimize it if you take control early and hopefully defuse the situation. Ideally, have one spokesperson to deal with media interviews but produce written statements where possible, so your company representative doesn't deviate from what you want them to say. A question-and-answer document, setting out the company stance and providing strict guidelines for comment, will ensure one single, consistent message is communicated. Keep statements factual and succinct, saying why the situation has arisen and what is being done about it. Honesty is the best policy and appearing to be open will keep the media on your side. Never refuse to do an interview and never admit liability or speculate.

by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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