PR crisis management

We’re a reliable and experienced source of advice for our clients when it comes to crisis management – providing swift and carefully considered communications designed to minimise the impact of any negative circumstances.

While you might be tempted to say ‘no comment’ to bad publicity, we’ll illustrate just how such a stance could be even more damaging to your reputation. The inside track of how to manage a crisis is priceless – whether that is a proactive strategy to minimise a risk or providing reactive communications once the worst has happened.

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Managing a crisis

No comment. Job done. Crisis over. If only it was that easy to make a crisis go away when your organisation becomes embroiled in controversy.

Alas, it’s not that simple. Excuse us for a moment for stating the obvious – a crisis poses one of the biggest threats to your organisation’s hard-won reputation. More often than not, loss of reputation has a direct correlation to loss of revenue.

Some crises, such as industrial accidents, harm or illness arising from your products, can result in injuries and even loss of life. The financial loss is brought about by disrupting operations, creating a loss of market share through lost sales, and can even spawn reputation-damaging – and costly – lawsuits.

And yet many organisations don’t have a crisis management plan, assuming they’re immune to the threat. A Cornerstone PR crisis management and communications strategy can help to salvage and repair reputations and address the unwanted consequences of a calamity.

What is crisis management?

A crisis is borne out of risk. If you do not assess the risks in your organisation, business or sector then you run the risk of a crisis. It’s a virtual circle.

A crisis can be defined as a significant threat to operations that can have negative consequences if not handled properly. According to the Journal of Management Studies, it causes extensive damage or disruption and involves multiple stakeholders.

But sometimes it’s not the crisis itself that will damage your reputation; it’s how you handle it. For example, the government wasn’t criticised for the Covid-19 pandemic but for the way it handled it. There were even accusations it had ignored risks flagged up in previous SARs-related outbreaks.

“Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing,” said American business magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockerfeller.

His wisdom takes us right back to where we started. The worst thing you can do in a crisis is to leave a void that could potentially fill with misinformation. So, how do you stop it, or even prevent it happening in the first place?

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How do we handle crisis management?

Our PR team has a combined experience of more than 50 years in the media. Their knowledge of PR crisis management is not only based on orchestrating the strategy, but the lessons learned while reporting on crises during their time on the news frontline. The phrase ‘poachers turned gamekeepers’ springs to mind.

Some crises come out the blue, some are slow burners, usually because risks have been underestimated, or even ignored.

In proactive circumstances we’ll ask questions such as what are the risks to your organisation? How can you mitigate them? Do you have a crisis management team, and who is on it? Who is going to be the ‘responder(s)’?

The most common members of a crisis team are comms specialist(s), and representatives from legal, security, operations, finance, and human resources.

But whether you’re being proactive or reactive, the first thing to stress is to involve us immediately to assess the degree of difficulty, what response is needed, via which channels, and who will deliver it?

Sometimes that’s not necessarily ‘The Boss’. A subject matter expert could be much better placed to explain and communicate and will be more knowledgeable when it comes to answering difficult questions. Remember, no comment is not an option!

Crisis management is crucial in 2023

A crisis is far more likely to blow up in these days of 24-hour news coverage and social media.

Here at Cornerstone, we have specialist media monitoring software that provides us with the social media sentiment surrounding any digitally published story about your organisation, enabling us to spot any negative trends as soon as they start.

As a full-service Manchester PR agency, our PR team can liaise with their digital counterparts to help shape the necessary responses, and the best channels to release them.

A fine example of the role social media can play in difficult circumstances is the M&S versus Aldi spat over their respective Colin and Cuthbert Caterpillars. When M&S threatened to take legal action against Aldi over its copycat caterpillar cake it became a masterclass of how to handle a crisis by Aldi’s social media team when it launched its witty #FreeCuthbert campaign, winning widespread praise from social media users and turning what could’ve been a crisis into an opportunity.

Stakeholders, including the news media, will turn to the internet during a crisis. We recommend that crisis management should utilise some form of web-based response, or risk appearing to be ineffective. When it comes to managing a crisis, honesty, clear communication, and action are paramount.

And we never forget that it’s not just what you say, but how you say it that counts. We’ll make sure our crisis communications show your organisation is engaged with the difficulties facing it, shows concern about what’s happened, that it’s taking action to rectify matters and offering reassurance to stakeholders.

If you want to know more about our brand and reputation management skills, you can discover all you need to know here.

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Expertise in internal crisis communication

Of course, a crisis is just as likely to have an internal impact in tandem with the public calamity. If your crisis communications are public facing, don’t leave an internal vacuum.

Our internal PR expertise will ensure that you benefit from employees who are well informed, well supported and on board. They can be crucial ambassadors in difficult times.

And in the event of any difficult situation, our honest and ethical approach to everything we do means we are ideally placed to ensure your communications will be shared in the most constructive way possible.

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Get in touch

Contact Cornerstone to find out how our PR crisis management expertise can guide you through a maelstrom, or proactively protect before a storm blows up.

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