Why Crisis Communications is Important
Crisis Communications is the flip side of Public Relations and should be a primary focus of any serious client. It requires an intent focus on both the client and the public and how to properly evade or remedy a crisis situation. Very accurately, SHIFT Communications compares crisis communications to that of a fire. With this form of communications, it infers that something has gone wrong with a brand or client’s image. The responsible party for the crisis stands as the fuel for that flame. The energy that maintains that fire is representative of the public’s opinion of the crisis. Through crisis communications, the crisis is addressed and the flame is put out. This is a very descriptive and truthful comparison.
However, with this comparison, some may jump to the conclusion that speedy response is the best way to smother the flame. This is untrue as there are many methods necessary to respond to a crisis in communications. Whatever the crisis may be, the first and foremost issue is that the brand or client take ownership of their crisis. Identifying what allowed the crisis to ensure is the first step to stopping the flame. Knowing how to stop it, and doing so successfully with as little image damage as possible is ideally the best and most effective way to save public opinion.
So what identifies a crisis? In this modern world of internet and social media, the options have broadened to social media crisis as well as more traditional ones like television broadcasting, advertisement, and spoken mistakes. A crisis is anything that poses a risk to the reputation of a business or client that negatively affects their image. This requires the remedy of crisis communications and public relations intervention. Still, this explanation could seem difficult to understand. This is a specialized area in Public Relations, that usually requires a plan for each business or client that varies by industry of necessity. It is the response to threats to the reputation. It is preventative care in its own way.
As there are countless businesses and clients that use crisis communications and preventative public relations efforts to avoid situations getting out of hand, there is sometimes no avoiding it. Sometimes things just happen without warning or escalate faster than anticipated. The swift response will determine the ongoing length of the crisis, and the longer a crisis goes on, the more difficult it is to combat, as flames will not go out on their own. This is why most businesses have a crisis communications and public relations team to both assist in avoidance as well as a remedy for these issues. It is also easy to assume that already having a team in place to foresee and aid in this situation is ideal. This is as opposed to scrambling to find a team to help you after the damage has been done, or during the issue. A trained and prepared team is the best prevention. Think of it less as a team waiting for something to go wrong, and more like a constant guideline and filter.
Unfortunately, there have been many crisis communications case studies in public relations history. This means that many companies have been subject to issues in public opinion for one reason or another. Not only are these ways for others to learn from their mistakes, it is also a symbol that one can recover from a crisis. Falling victim to problems in the public eye has happened to countless businesses in one way or another. It is nearly impossible to avoid in this politically correct world. This is why a team is necessary to see these issues before they happen and avoid them accordingly. In the case that something does go wrong, a crisis communications team is there to assist.
Why is it important for a business or client to utilize crisis communications? Because it is best to have a preventative plan in place to even avoid the flame of a crisis in the first place. In The event of a fire approaching the reputation and public image of a client, crisis communications face it head on with swift effectiveness to both put out the flame and recover the potentially lost public opinion. This is important to the public image because everyone knows that mistakes happen, as it is typically unavoidable in some cases. This communications team will be there in the event of any of the above happening. It is equally about the speed at which the response is seen by the public, and how it is dealt with. Even in a crisis, grace and consideration are required.
Bernstein, Jonathan. (2016). The 10 Steps of Crisis Communications. Retrieved from: https://www.bernsteincrisismanagement.com/the-10-steps-of-crisis-communications/
Penn, Christopher. (2013). What Is Crisis Communications. Retrieved from: http://www.shiftcomm.com/blog/what-is-crisis-communications/