PR Part 3: Resolving a Media Crisis

Shift CollaborativePR


Whether it’s the latest professional athlete scandal, a revealing political bashing, or a brand not holding true to its values, we’ve all heard a media crisis story.  The response to these crises often sets the stage for whether the organizations will be able to recover from their crises. Every brand, business, and person can face a public relations crisis.  The key to coming through the other side of a crisis is having a plan and knowing when to follow through.

Anticipating a Media Crisis

The most successful method for navigating through a crisis is to plan for it before it happens.  When a crisis occurs, your immediate reaction is to respond and contradict the severity of the criticism. This reaction is actually a mistake.

Before responding, you should take a moment to reflect and research the situation in order to careful form a response that will not make the situation worse.  This reflective process can be a time consuming process that does not always fit well into the time-frame of responding to a crisis.  By constructing a plan in advance, you allow yourself more time to research and reflect on the situation and properly form responses based on the severity of the interaction.  Thus, when the crisis actually occurs, all you need to do is gauge the severity of the crisis and turn to the appropriately scaled response.

What are my potential crises?

The type of crises your organization could face depend on the specifics of your organization and your industry. The best way to identify possible crises is by looking closely at your organization for areas that could be viewed unfavorably by opposing or partner organizations.  For instance, a gas drilling company needs to be prepared for errors or malfunctions in their drilling process that could illicit a response from environmental groups, and a family-focused organization would need to be wary of whether any of their merchandise is produced through child labor.

Recognizing a Media Crisis

While you are in the mindset of looking for negative responses, it is important to remember that not every negative reaction constitutes a crisis.  Just because one person gives you a negative review on Yelp or Twitter doesn’t mean you should launch your entire crisis management campaign against them.  This reaction will most like cause an actual widespread crisis.  Instead respond in scale to the situation.  In this case, it would be a comment on the review providing context to others reading the review while you justify or remedy your actions.

What are the signs that I’m dealing with a crisis?
  1. there’s a threat to the organization
  2. the threat comes as a surprise
  3. you have a short decision time
  4. resolution may require some change by the organization

McDonald’s introduces their new Happy Meal Mascot, Happy on Twitter. When Happy receives a negative reaction, McDonald’s has to respond to the crisis in Twitter.

Responding to a Media Crisis

When you know you are in a crisis, now is the time to turn to and implement your crisis management plan. Things to remember in this moment are:

  • the response should match the scale of the crisis
  • have a dedicated spokesperson distribute information
  • respond through the same channel where the crisis started

Our Previous Posts …

This post was the third and final post in a series of posts on public relations this month.  If you missed our first post, PR Part 1: The Media Pitching Process, we discussed the steps involved in successfully pitching a story to the media.  Our second post, PR Part 2: The Social Frontier discusses how to manage your reputation through social networks.