While we would all like to believe that public relations crises only happen to the “big guys,” that’s unfortunately not always the case. If your company or organization finds itself in the middle of a PR predicament, don’t bury your head in the sand; tackle the problem head on. We’ll show you how.

The best advice we can give is to prepare in advance. Depending on your industry, you may want to build a crisis response team with representatives from corporate, legal, customer service and marketing to discuss how you would handle a negative PR situation and to coordinate between channels. Create both a proactive and a reactive crisis communications plan that includes an escalation policy for negative comments on social media sites and in the media.

Of course, advanced preparation isn’t always a possibility. If you find yourself in the middle of a PR crisis, here are some tips to help see you through.

  • First, clearly assess the situation and your position in the crisis. Identify what your desired outcome is and plan your responses accordingly. All too often, individuals react to a situation or an attack, which only exacerbates the crisis and could tarnish your company’s reputation beyond the topic at hand.
  • Set a designated media spokesperson within your company and make sure colleagues and other members of staff know to direct media to this person.
  • Develop messages that answer anticipated questions. Keep the conversation focused on your core argument/stance. Consistently redirect the conversation back to this message.
  • If you are contacted by the media, it will be important to respond within the hour. And if you are not able to, be sure to respond before the reporter’s deadline.
  • Set clear talking points, a concise list of key points you want to convey in each interview.
  • Keep responses short, concise and focused.
  • Leverage your own media assets—website, Facebook, Twitter—to ensure that you are controlling the message. Use your Facebook page or website as a go-to source for facts. Direct journalists to this central communication point for the latest information.
  • Remain calm, focused, determined and willing.

We, of course, would also suggest getting some outside advice from a calm, wise, experienced and trustworthy public relations advisor. If it’s a true PR crisis, hire an experienced professional.

Long story short: by preparing, planning and executing a well-developed crisis strategy, you can productively handle any PR calamity that may find its way to your doorstep.