PR Crisis Management

Articles, insights and accounts of PR crises we’ve managed, learned from (or about) and our takes on them.

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The Israeli medias impact during the COVID-19 crisis

The Israeli media had and still has a significant impact on the public, mainly due to the traditionally high consumption of news as well as other content by the Israelis, who love to be “in the know”. This is true to both the older audience, which watches TV and reads the printed newspapers, as well as to younger people who receive the information from the social networks: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more.

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Product recalls, scandals involving members of management, revelations about employee maltreatment – that’s the stuff of PR executives’ nightmares. The newly published ‘PR Trend Monitor’ by dpa subsidiary News Aktuell asked more than 500 PR Professionals which of the causes for a communication crisis they fear most and what should be avoided in handling a PR crisis.

According to the survey results, nearly two-thirds of PR professionals believe that trying to hide mistakes will most likely backfire. One in three respondents particularly fears crises due to the failure or a personal misconduct of the executives. Prosecutorial investigations are among the top crisis topics for one in four PR experts (26 percent), followed by social media shitstorms (24 percent). Read more

Social Media Channels

In Vietnam, social media has become one of the most popular communication platforms. Despite the powerful effect of social media in conditioning a crisis, and the trend to integrate social media into crisis management strategies in many countries, Vietnamese companies have often ignored or underutilized these channels.

As part of my doctoral dissertation, I seek to compare the perception of social media in crisis communication in Vietnam to that in the US. As America has always been considered a role model and main influencer for Vietnam’s PR practice, the comparison can help understand the underlying factors contributed to that perception. I interviewed 12 Vietnamese practitioners and 8 American practitioners from different public relations firms who have two to 25 years experience working in the PR industry in their respective countries. You can find the conclusions summarised below.

But before that, let me point out the fact that despite the differences in perception between US and Vietnam regarding the use of social media in the above mentioned context, both countries (and indeed all cultures around the globe) tend to repond to crises in similar ways. Without adequate preparation and understanding of the issue faced by the organisation and without genuine interest to do things better so to avoid similar future problem (and for the narrative to get out of hand), people who run companies get carried away by personal feelings, they get into endless arguing with ever more details and they invest themselves beyond what’s necessary, effectively doing more harm to the reputation of their companies than good.

PR services can’t save businesses from themselves, but they can certainly educate the decision-makers, the social media managers and spokespeople to adopt a certain tone of voice when attempting to fix a public image crisis and to look for ways to own the narrative regarding their company. No bullet-proof recipe exists in this respect, because every crisis is unique (archive), every context differs and all audience members are, well, people. And people often behave differently behind a computer screen than they would in real life (IRL), as well as when they act as part of group than they are by themselves. Let’s just say that being human is hard work.

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This is the third part of a series on crisis communication on social media in Vietnam by GCPR member EloQ Communications. We previously wrote about why companies who operate in Vietnam should use social media more for crisis communication. Now we’ll explore some reasons why companies here often choose not to, and why most of those are mistaken.

1. They want to distance themselves from the crisis

Oftentimes, companies believe that by staying out of the fray they can ignore the controversy and it will die down on its own. But in fact, information avoidance is the least effective method of crisis management. That’s especially true in this age of social media posts, which don’t just vanish into the ether but catch on and spread, gaining more interested followers (and bandwagon jumpers) along the way. Not only does attempting to ignore a crisis make it look like a company doesn’t care about its stakeholders, but social media users who don’t receive a response (or receive an insufficient response) are more likely to stage campaigns and boycotts against the company. Sincere, open communication is exactly what stakeholders want, and it’s what will allow them to forgive a company and move on. Read more

This is the second part of a series on crisis communication on social media in Vietnam by GCPR member EloQ Communications.

Practicing public relations in times of stability is challenging enough, but what about when something goes wrong? That’s when crisis communication comes into play. Crisis communication as a subset of public relations is a fairly young practice in Vietnam. Just as companies and PR firms were beginning to learn out how to handle themselves in a crisis – using press conferences and official media statements – the rise of social media has left them scrambling, with some attempting to embrace social media while others stick to what they know. But making social media a central part of crisis response may be even more crucial here than many other places. Here are a few reasons why.

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As part of her doctoral dissertation research, Clāra Ly-Le, director of EloQ Communications, interviewed several public relations experts in Vietnam on the subject of crisis communication. Clāra’s work focuses on social media, but the insights expressed by the experts she found are often applicable regardless of the medium. What follows are some of the most worthwhile four pieces of advice she gathered and which organisations from most (if not all) industries should take into consideration when they face a potential or full-blown PR crisis.

Accept Fault Sincerely

If a simple error was made with no apparent victim, it is still good practice to acknowledge and change any false information (without calling too much attention to it). Consider how software companies regularly list bug fixes in their updates, even if they discovered those bugs themselves. When people were harmed, however, things get more complicated, and apologies and recompense become necessary, as well as being sensible towards other aspects of the business an organsation may have not been very mindful before.

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Executives face to face, Challenges

When a corporate crisis strikes, crisis communications is crucial for the survival of any company. In these turbulent times, the CEO must step up and take charge as the primary spokesperson. Unfortunately, countless examples of public relations disasters indicate that the CEO might not always be prepared to be the crisis communicator. Because even the smallest mistake in a crisis response can leave a lasting mark on a company, it’s helpful to have a few tips handy when preparing for the worst. Here are our tips for how CEOs can become crisis communications pros (while also keeping in mind that PR agencies aren’t “spin doctors” and we generally advocate against such practices).

1. Get Professional Media Training

Although CEOs are used to communicating everyday with innumerable stakeholders, they might not be in the habit of talking to the press without days, or even weeks, of preparation. But in times of crisis, the stakes are so high that the key decision-maker needs to own up for the company’s actions on the spot – not in a few days or weeks. No one can ever be fully prepared to react to every single question a journalist will ask, but professional media training can teach the CEO how to respond to charged questions in the best way possible.

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massachusetts snow

We all understand that precipitation is part of being from New England, but commuting – especially these last few winter months – has certainly been a nightmare. More than 100 inches of snow crippled the MBTA, and I’m willing to bet many of you who rely on public transportation barely saw your office for much of February.

Though the lack of available transportation affected many, the MBTA’s main issue is even larger than how many (rather, how few) trains and buses were running. As the MBTA taught us, there are certain practices that should be followed when a crisis strikes. Here are three key PR and crisis communications lessons that can be learned from the winter of 2015 MBTA fiasco.

MBTA North Station

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We live in a digital age where we have to be aware of the many cyber risks that surround us. We have to be prepared for when our cyber security systems fail to protect us – because they will fail from time to time. In 2011, the personal information and credit card information of 77 million online users of Sony’s PlayStation were hacked. LinkedIn had 6.5 million encrypted passwords published on a Russian webpage where the hacker asked for help to crack the codes. These are large-scale examples but cyber risks are nonetheless issues that companies have to be prepared for. Because if a cyber-attack happens, the company leaders will be perceived as incompetent and unable to control their businesses, regardless of the fact that the company is the victim of a crime.

Crisis communications is not something that only PR agencies should know about, but we argue that no MBA (and management in general) or Marketing qualification should be awarded without containing some basic knowledge in terms of managing PR crises.

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This post was first published by Cheryl Gale on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.

A PR crisis can happen fast. An unexpected event ripples throughout the company and executives go into crisis mode, seeking shelter in the board room. Employees whisper in the hallways. And, once that crisis spreads to the outside world, public companies often watch in horror as the stock price plummets.

But there are things you can do in a PR crisis. That was the topic of the latest Pub Club event, which took place last night at Hotel 140 in Boston.

During “Reputation Management in the 24/7 Media Environment: Best Practices in Crisis Communications,” four experts spoke about how companies can handle a PR crisis. Read more