When you are in the midst of a crisis (the car breaks down, your child is sick and you need to pick him up from day care but you have a big presentation to give), how do you react?
Now think about a crisis at work that you have to manage as a PR practitioner. When the crisis strikes, what are the executives worrying about?
“The more we understand some of their stress, the better we are able to help them cope,” said Joan Gladstone, APR, president and CEO of Gladstone International.
The two key areas that executives think about in a crisis are financial impacts and reputation impacts, she shared during a PRSA webinar.
If the crisis is sudden, executives often display heightened reactions, which can lead to slow decisions, hasty decisions or emotional decisions.
As the PR person you play a critical role in a crisis. “You have an extraordinarily important role,” Gladstone said. The role is more than helping with the media, though.
“You must take a lead role in guiding the immediate crisis response strategies that could impact your organization’s reputation for many years to come,” Gladstone said.
Your role is to stay calm and listen. You don’t want to jump to solutions, and you should ask questions to understand the facts and evaluate ideas. It’s also important to introduce news and social media results into the discussion. This also is not the time to be timid – offer your recommendations.
When you ask the right questions, you will gain a better understanding of what is really important about the current situation. You should also be sure you are messaging to your key audiences.
Finally, recognize that the media won’t necessarily call for a comment. Gladstone said reporters will visit the website looking for a posted statement. If one isn’t there, the reporter is likely to note that. That means you need to get your statement ready and posted quickly.
Finally, Gladstone said it’s okay to offer an apology. “It shows you have a heart,” she said. “You are not admitting fault.”