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.
Since the early days working around her kitchen table, Beth has grown Inkhouse into one of the top independent PR agencies in the country. She’s been named a Top Woman in PR by PR News, a Top 25 Innovator by PRovoke, and an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. Beth designed Inkhouse’s signature Storytelling Workshop to mirror the literary hero’s journey and to unearth the emotional connections that bind an audience to a brand or idea. She also uses narratives to build Inkhouse’s culture, most recently through two books of employee essays, “Hindsight 2020” and “Aren’t We Lucky?”