Navigate a PR Crisis With Ease

Ashley Madison. FIFA. NFL. Bill Cosby. Jian Ghomeshi. Rob Ford… In recent months, the headlines have proclaimed PR problems for several major brands and personalities. These headlines prove that, in business as in life, bad stuff happens.

Any company could make headlines due to a crisis involving a data breach, employee misconduct, financial issues or – in the age of social media – consumer complaints about a product or service.

How well prepared is your company for negative publicity?

The best way to handle a PR crisis is to proactively plan for one.

Being prepared will help you minimize the impact and amount of time spent responding to a business issue.

Having a plan with also help you mitigate risks, and regain control of the situation and conversation.

How to Protect Your Brand

For resilience and poise during a crisis, use these best practices:

Identify and monitor potential threats and based on your company’s most probable risks:

  • Consider the worst scenarios that have taken place in your company over the past decade
  • Pinpoint your show stoppers – issues that would adversely impact business continuity
  • Listen for potential threats using social media, inbound and internal communication
  • Add discussions of business risks as a standing issue on management meeting agendas

Proactively prepare solutions before you need them:

  • Establish and document crisis communication protocols, processes and procedures
  • Educate employees on these protocols so everyone is aware of their role
  • Develop process checklists for communications leads, including the CEO as spokesperson
  • Establish a team command centre and a media command centre
  • Protect your company by practicing crisis communication drills, just as you would practice for a fire drill

Act quickly and efficiently as you address perceptions, take responsibility and assure stakeholders you are applying your plan to amend the situation:

  • Address issues directly and immediately
  • Keep communications honest, transparent and deliberate
  • Apply your pre-established standard processes and procedures
  • Assess the scope of the issue, including the number of people involved and financial impact
  • Seek out interview requests to participate in the conversation and control the message

While you can’t control everything that happens in your company, you can control how you will respond. In times of crisis, have a plan, always tell the truth and be accountable for your actions. Review and adjust your crisis communications plan on a semi-annual basis to keep it up-to-date so you can feel confident, even in the face of business issues.

What crisis communication tips would you add?

Lisa Goller
Lisa Goller helps businesses tell their story. As a Toronto-based Strategic Freelance Writer & Editor, she helps time-starved executives and entrepreneurs stand out, look good and save time through irresistible content marketing. Learn more at

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Crisis Communications, Rob Ford Style
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Case Study: Social Media Crisis Control

Forbes, PRWeek,, TippingPointPR

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