If you’re in business, you need a crisis communications plan. In a year that feels like scandal is the norm, businesses are facing intense scrutiny. Investigative journalism has made a dramatic resurgence. At InkHouse, we’ve never handled more client crisis scenarios than we have this past year -- especially in the last six months.
This year has been marked by high-profile cases involving data privacy, racial and gender inequality, #MeToo, and hacks, among others. With so many ways to hold organizations accountable, disgruntled employees can easily turn into citizen journalists and off-the-record sources. Add in the virality of social media and bots that hijack trending hashtags, and a small issue can get blown out of proportion within minutes -- all before the facts are known.
Once a crisis has caught you unprepared, PR can help, but in those cases, we’re only going to be able to make the situations slightly less bad. When you’re caught reactive, you’re on the defensive, and you’ll be gulping for air in between fending off attacks. However, when you’re prepared you can be responsive and even proactive to keep your reputation intact.
Reputation is not something you can begin building the day a crisis hits. There are no magic tricks in a crisis -- no PR tactic, no well-placed media phone call, no legal maneuver that can make it all go away. However, a good reputation that’s been intentionally built over time can help an organization weather the toughest crisis. That’s where a good corporate social responsibility program comes in, one that’s anchored to your organization’s values.
Crisis PR can feel like the Wild West these days because many of the situations are unprecedented. We’re counseling vastly different approaches based on each scenario, but here are a few of the big things you should consider:
If you have a comprehensive crisis communications plan in place, you’ll be able to respond well even in the midst of the emotional turmoil that surrounds all crises. It’s an in-depth process, but it pays off in the long-term by giving your reputation a fighting chance.
Beth is the CEO of InkHouse, which she co-founded in 2007, and has grown into one of the fastest-growing PR firms in the nation with 100+ employees and four offices. Named one of the “Top Women in PR” by PR News, Beth is working to reinvent the PR agency model to bend it toward the kind of culture that catapults great ideas and jettisons the rules that no longer work. At InkHouse, Beth focuses on inventing and implementing the new strategies that shape the agency’s work. In addition to changing the PR profession, Beth is working to change workplace culture as an advocate for equal opportunities. A frequent contributor to Forbes and Fortune, she is widely cited in outlets ranging from NPR, to Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Huffington Post, Bloomberg and The Boston Globe. Beth was an appointee to Governor Patrick’s Women in the Workplace Task Force, and currently serves on two boards of directors as vice chair for the Alliance for Business Leadership and the vice president of the Massachusetts Women’s Forum. Beth spent six years learning the ropes in startup technology PR at Schwartz Communications and then moved on to venture capital firm Charles River Ventures before she went to The Castle Group, a generalist PR firm, for which she was a vice president. She studied PR, creative writing and journalism at Syracuse University and graduated from its SI Newhouse School of Public Communications.