Whenever your company faces negative media coverage, what’s the first thing you do? (Running for cover isn’t a solution.) Getting upset and blaming people who exposed the problem isn’t the solution either. The first step is simple: remind yourself that a PR problem isn’t a catastrophe, it’s only a crisis. Like any crisis, you can get over it if you know what to do.

We’ve partnered with SiriusDecisions in a 60-minute webinar where we covered how to use a crisis communications framework to minimize damage from mistakes, attacks, and false information. This is what we learned.

Set Up a Successful Crisis Communications Framework

Whenever a company is going through a PR crisis, they usually improvise on a possible solution as they go. SiriusDecisions suggests that preparing a framework prior to the need for it is a more effective way to confront a problem.

Here are the elements:

crisis framework.png

Below we pull out different elements of this framework and show you how to use it the next time a PR crisis occurs.

What’s a Crisis?

A crisis is an event or story that negatively affects the reputation of your business. As soon as you see your company in one, you need to gather your executive team and brainstorm a list of the possible scenarios that could happen in the near future.

Prioritize the Crisis

Once you have developed the list of scenarios, you need to classify each scenario according to:

  • Harm and severity
  • How the audience is affected
  • How long each one will last
  • Who’s fault it is

You can also use a grid, like the one you can see below, and insert each scenario according to their likelihood to happen and their severity.

prioritization grid.png

The higher the likelihood and severity, the more your organization should be prepared to face the potential negative outcomes that may occur and how to minimize them.

Develop Effective Protocols

Instead of waiting for a crisis to happen, you need to have a system which can prepare your organization to effectively confront each problem that arises. The recommended system to implement goes as follows:

crisis management.png

The process starts by having a clear idea of whether a crisis exists or not. Once you know there’s one, you need to have a clear chain of command — defining who reports to whom and how. Then you need to asses the severity of the crisis before you develop the strategy to face it and its eventual response.

Practice Crisis

While it’s important to be aware that when your company experiences a PR crisis, you don’t need to wait for one to implement the crisis management framework. It’s important to practice a crisis often so you don’t get caught off guard when a crisis actually happens.

Two exercises recommended are tabletop practice and crisis simulation. While the former works more like a team-wide debate about a fictional crisis, the latter uses realistic conditions to test the preparedness of the teams involved.

Have a Bill of Materials

The bill of materials represents a list of content that will be needed during a crisis. This includes:

  • Company media kits, like executive biographies, photos, etc…
  • FAQs
  • Customer service outlined scripts, which will be adapted to the given crisis
  • Customer communications templates, which will be used as templates to use with the affected customers
  • Employee communications templates, which work like the previous one but for employees

Monitoring the Crisis

The final part of the framework is about putting media monitoring and social listening tools in place before a crisis so the teams responsible for them can be prepared.

The use of media monitoring and social listening tools can help you detect a crisis before it shows up by checking the brand conversations and sentiment. By using the shown framework, you should also have your customer support teams prepared if they saw a crisis was starting to come up.

PR Takeaways

A PR crisis is no simple matter and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Next time you see your organization in one, instead of trying to figure out what to do, you can implement SiriusDecision’s framework.

With the help of their crisis management framework, you will be able to understand what kind of crisis you are experiencing and what’s the best way to confront it.

To check out the full webinar, download it for free here.