Effective Crisis Management: Ten Tips from a 20-Year Industry Expert
“I have a crisis. Can you help me?” Nationally-recognized crisis communications expert Joan Gladstone, APR, Fellow PRSA, has heard this question many times over the course of her career. As PR professionals, how do you avoid a collision course between speed and accuracy in a crisis, prepare CEOs to communicate with empathy and compassion, and prioritize key audiences to put employees and customers first? Gladstone shares best practices, tips and lessons learned from years of counseling the top management of companies, cities and nonprofits during major crises. Below are the top three tips:
1. Crisis communications is an art form not a science – dissecting the situation is key. Live by the premise that PR pros have a lead role – not only in crafting messaging – but in a higher purpose to lead strategic discussions about the options clients have and the consequences of the option that may be adopted.
2. Good journalists in this country are smart, seek accuracy and work to combat alternative facts. They know if (unauthorized) spokespersons have an agenda or are promoting falsities contrary to the organization. There will be a dependence on the organization to get the truth out. Journalists need to find what is accurate because what they write will live on forever. This promotes a healthy dynamic for PR pros to get the truth out.
3. A mantra to live by: does the threat negatively impact people, property or the environment? If the answer is yes, we must act quickly. Leverage this as a PR person and push for a more proactive approach to communications. If the answer is no, assess more reactive options. Keep in mind, you may need to get assertive when a client gets close to making a big mistake. Be confident that you may be the most experienced person to help with the crisis.
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