What Are Effective Crisis Communication Experiences from the Public Relations Industry?

    Authored By

    PR Thrive

    What Are Effective Crisis Communication Experiences from the Public Relations Industry?

    In the fast-paced world of crisis communication, public relations experts must act with precision and care. We've gathered insights from six seasoned professionals, including a Chief Marketing Officer and a Marketing Communications Manager, who share their experiences from swift action aligning with company values to ensuring accountability strengthens user trust.

    • Swift Action Aligns with Values
    • Personal Outreach Maintains Stakeholder Trust
    • Collaborative Crisis Strategy in Higher Education
    • Pre-Crisis Planning Mitigates Tech Mishaps
    • Transparency and Honesty Rebuild Online Trust
    • Accountability in Communication Strengthens User Trust

    Swift Action Aligns with Values

    During a crisis with a client following a devastating incident involving their security team, we learned vital lessons about crisis communication. The incident, where a security altercation led to a tragic loss, required immediate and decisive action. Our client responded by severing ties with the security firm and closing the affected store as a sign of respect to the victim.

    They also committed to a thorough review of their policies on diversity and tolerance. This proactive approach not only addressed the immediate backlash but also demonstrated the company's dedication to corporate responsibility and ethical conduct. The situation highlighted the importance of a swift, principled response that aligns with the company's values, maintaining trust during critical moments.

    Marco Genaro Palma
    Marco Genaro PalmaChief Marketing Officer, PRLab

    Personal Outreach Maintains Stakeholder Trust

    I remember in my first internship at a marketing agency, we were working on a two-day festival which was slated to get rescheduled. Instead of just sending out an official email and a social media broadcast, we called each and every artist personally and explained the situation to them. It made a huge difference that we actively reached out and allowed them to interface with another human who could empathize and respond in an appropriate manner. It helped us maintain a good relationship with our stakeholders despite being unable to deliver what had been promised.

    Bottom line is - PR is a lot more personal than it appears on the surface. Pay attention to the people as much as you pay attention to the process and the product.

    Animesh MishraMarketing Communications Manager, Ekya Schools

    Collaborative Crisis Strategy in Higher Education

    Working in higher education PR and marketing during the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic offered a distinctive crisis communication experience. The small, private college where I worked suddenly faced a dilemma when Italy announced the country was going under lockdown, closing its borders to travel in or out of the country. The college's study-abroad program was hosting 33 students at a campus in Bologna, all of whom needed travel arrangements back to the U.S., along with scores of people leaving the country.

    This event shaped my approach to public relations as this experience required multiple departments to collaborate and included many internal and external communication strategies. Working through the logistics of communicating with the students affected, their guardians, the students, faculty, and staff of the college, as well as the multiple local and national media requests, required purposeful and immediate action. Not only did this situation provide the opportunity to be mindful of the detailed conveyance of information, but it also led to a deeper understanding of public relations' role in relation to other facets of the college's leadership.

    Ashley Rains
    Ashley RainsPublic Relations & Communications Manager, Visit Mobile

    Pre-Crisis Planning Mitigates Tech Mishaps

    Doing tech comms taught me that good crisis communications start before the crisis. Build out plans that include monitoring systems, audiences, spokespersons, and channels for different scenarios. (Is the incident just embarrassing, or does it indicate criminal liability?) And don't just train executives—employees posting on social media can derail even a well-architected plan, so develop policies for that, too.

    Valerie FenynManaging Director, Bast Communications

    Transparency and Honesty Rebuild Online Trust

    A customer's product defect early on set off a social media frenzy. We hurried to limit the harm. Our initial attempt to minimize the problem was a tried-and-true strategy that backfired. It destroyed trust more quickly than fire. We changed course to become transparent. We apologized, admitted the error, and provided detailed instructions on how to resolve it. The quick change and regular updates helped to defuse the situation.

    This encounter highlighted the significance of honesty in online communication. Even in times of crisis, people long for honesty. I now place a high value on prompt, clear communication in all content. It's about establishing trust before a crisis to provide a solid basis for recovery.

    Faizan Khan
    Faizan KhanPublic Relations and Content Marketing Specialist, Ubuy UK

    Accountability in Communication Strengthens User Trust

    I recall when our product launch hit an unexpected snag, causing customer dissatisfaction. It was a tight corner, but I led the team in transparent communication with our users, owning up to the problem and promising swift resolution. It was enlightening to see how honesty and accountability defused negativity and bolstered trust. This experience reshaped my PR approach to prioritize open dialogue, accountability, and swift resolution in crisis situations.

    Abid Salahi
    Abid SalahiCo-founder & CEO, FinlyWealth