Crisis Communications in a Digital Age


Our best days as PR professionals are filled with amazing opportunities, such as hosting launch parties, press trips and media events, creating engaging campaigns, and conducting executive interviews. These are things that make our PR jobs exciting and fulfilling. But, even the best of us have bad days, and unfortunately, clients have bad days as well. This is where the true PR pros shine, although not as “glamorous,” the timely and appropriate response to client crisis is what sets apart the great PR firms from the average ones. Crisis situations can truly make or break a brand’s image, and the ability to correctly counsel a client during these times, should they arise, is imperative.

Every crisis is unique, and requires a customized strategy for acknowledgment and response. An appropriate response can range from defensive, in the case of invalid accusations, to accommodating, where corrective action and the issuance of an apology is needed. Whatever the reality of the circumstance is, there are certain tactics that should always be put into practice to properly manage a crisis and mitigate damage.

Just as previous posts have discussed social media and its increasingly important role in creative campaigns and public engagement, it is also a major component in crisis communications. We live in a digital age where immediate response through social media is not just appreciated, it is expected. Promptly addressing the public is a must as there is a very small window of time that a company has to get their message out before rumors are started. When crafting this message, honesty and company transparency is truly the best policy. Social media has changed customers ‘expectations about the way companies communicate, and it is necessary to be as open and informative as possible, while also being human and conversational. The public is historically much more responsive and forgiving of companies that acknowledge the problem, explain how it occurred, and share steps that will be taken or are currently being taken to resolve the situation. Finally companies in crisis, or their representing PR firms, should be sure to communicate via all social media platforms that apply. If a negative comment first appears on Facebook, that may best place for initial response, but any place where a conversation can be started should be given attention.

The bad days usually come unexpected, but having a strategy in place, and continually building your social media networks so that you have a support system of brand advocates on your side can help turn a crisis around and prove your worth as a PR professional.