How To Effectively Handle PR Crisis Management: A Guide

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Crisis PR

‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’. There’s nothing like a crisis for disproving a snappy maxim. When it comes to effective crisis management you only have to look at the PR losers in the news to realise its importance. Consumers will be bearing grudges against leaders, captains of industry, and brands post Covid-19. This global pandemic has challenged employers, employees, and consumers in unrecognisable ways. It has forced all of us to take stock of what we are, what we do and how we do it.

Companies across the UK have been featured in national media due to mass job losses, and threats of bankruptcy. The media has been keen to expose sharp practice and poor corporate behaviour. We’re even seeing public services being scrutinised, including teachers, schools, and universities.

Now more than ever, crisis management is essential. As whole industry sectors undoubtedly contract at least in the short to medium term – there will be winners and losers in a ‘last man standing’ scenario and for sure one of things the survivors will have in common is an intact reputation.

A crisis can be damaging to any business if not handled effectively and efficiently but when faced with an emergency of the scale of CV-19, the problems and challenges can seem unmanageable. So if you feel your brand or business requires some experienced outside help with crisis management, then contact us here.

The need for crisis management

There are many business and human-made scenarios that can only be resolved by crisis management. The way a company communicates to consumers as well as its own staff during a crisis can be pivotal in how quickly it  bounce back after it occurs. Some business cases of crisis management examples include:

KFC’s 2018 UK Chicken Crisis

KFC chicken crisis screenshot BBC
Source: BBC

During a relatively innocuous business transition to a new supply partner, KFC restaurants ran into major teething problems and shortages during the botched process. KFC took over 321 media inquiries within the first seven days, and over 80% of all UK adults were made aware of the crisis. The KFC marketing and communications crisis team used social media as a proactive brand voice to help wrestle brand perception. By creating the ‘FCK’ bucket, KFC went viral on social media for all of the right reasons, by admitting to their mistakes.

Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner Ad

The Live for Now – Moments PR campaign featuring Kendall Jenner, led to a considerable brand crisis. The campaign showed insensitivity which led to the advert being pulled. Pepsi released a statement immediately after the disaster occurred; their message was clear, showed empathy, and promised action.

Gillette’s ‘Me Too’ Campaign

Source: The Guardian

Shaving company Gillette has been at the forefront of abuse over their ‘Me Too’ campaign, raving about its ‘toxic’ masculinity. Gillette received double the amount of dislikes on their ad than they received likes. Gillette still suffers from an aura of controversy over their advert.


Source: LinkedIn

Back in 2004, Cadbury experienced one of the worst threats to their brand. The dairy milk bars, purchased in India, were infested. Cadbury upscaled their advertising, health & safety, and production; they even changed their packaging. While sales dropped, they quickly bounced back, as they ensured damage control.

How to manage a social media PR crisis

A social media crisis can occur a lot faster than what you think, with the ability to go viral within minutes of posting. Damage control and a crisis management plan is the key to ensuring quick bounce-back. Advance planning and crisis scenario workshops are an important part of the effective crisis resolution process, but many companies don’t consider this a priority until a crisis actually occurs. Big mistake.

Social media security

One crucial concept to think about is the security of your social media accounts, including who has access, and ensuring that ex-employees no longer have access to those channels. One of the worst offenders in a social media crisis is employees that end up posting inappropriately. The more people that have access to your business social media channels, the more likely there is to be a security breach.

Social media scheduling

During a social media crisis, the key is stopping all scheduled social media. I.e., if you are advertising a sale, but the discount isn’t working on the website, you can expect a backlash. One crucial step to consider at this stage is what you think to be a crisis and what you don’t, and then to plan around that and even grade the types of crisis with different actions and protocols triggered for each.

Communication and engagement

Social media can be one of the most effective tools when it comes to communicating during a crisis. You only have to look at the likes of British Airways that are interacting with consumers effectively via social media during COVID-19. By actively engaging with consumers on social media, you’re preventing scrutiny and helping consumers feel connected.

Effective crisis planning

The first stage in effective crisis planning is by identifying the potential risks to the business. Once identified, it is vital to begin planning the crisis management process. Identifying the risks may include product recalls, stock levels, website glitches, etc. Once identified, it’s useful to understand the seriousness of the potential risks, then, if deemed necessary, to determine a contingency plan. Control of all communication channels, nomination of agreed spokespeople, and consistency of messaging are all imperative in terms of successful crisis resolution – and after each crisis a full analysis should be conducted complete with recommendations for future improvements.

Effective crisis response

Your business response is key to ensuring effective crisis management. Responding quickly to a crisis is essential for brand reputation and bounce-back. Having a primary spokesperson and one source of truth will also ensure no issues with communication and brand messaging. Always admit to mistakes, apologise, and have empathy where needed.

Brandnation has extensive expertise in handling all types of crisis PR. If you need any help with your crisis management and planning, then get in touch with our PR firm today!

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