When Bad Things Happen to Good Clients

LCI’s Account Supervisor Catherine Topping shares some insight to handling crisis communications:

We’ve all been by a client’s side when events spiral out of hand. It’s never ideal, but, into every public relations professional’s life, a little crisis communications must fall. It’s the way in which we PR folks work with our clients during stressful times that demonstrate our worth as a partner. Here are a few crisis communications rules to keep in mind:

· Have a crisis communications plan in place – in advance! So, when the crisis hits, you’re ahead of the curve.

· When sticky situations arise, clients may not realize that they have been heading towards disaster. Our job is to keep tabs on what is going on in internally, and to bring to the client’s attention potentially dangerous issues. As outside partners, we bring a different perspective to discuss the client’s actions, and can point out ramifications to what internally seems like a great idea.

· Some clients want to avoid dealing with the crisis by refusing to share all the information with the PR team. Without understanding the background and full picture, a PR team is unable to offer informed advice. This puts us at a disadvantage when talking to media. So, maintaining an honest, open dialogue between the client and PR agency is crucial to implementing and executing a crisis communication plan.

· In the midst of a crisis, we must make sure our clients are truthful when speaking to the public. Owning up to mistakes goes a long way towards restoring the public’s trust, as does sharing plans to correct the client’s problem. Sticking to the facts is always the best policy. No one likes to hear “spin” during a crisis; one only has to think of the mistakes made by BP’s communications team just after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank.

· And, of course, avoid at all costs using the words “no comment” when speaking to a reporter. It implies, whether right or wrong, that the client has something to hide. Instead, clients should address difficult questions politely without shutting down the conversation.

· In short, good PR professionals know the following: manage, maintain, and repair (where necessary) the relationships between the client and the media. Beyond the immediate response to a crisis, the PR team will need to develop a sound strategy for repairing and/or rehabilitating the client’s image in the public eye.

On another note, some buzz-worthy ideas for Bay Area residents:

· Prospect, the new restaurant from Nancy Oaks and the team at Boulevard, is open! Check out the new hot spot at The Infinity, LCI’s client.

· “The Kids are Alright”, staring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, is getting great reviews from the critics and around the LCI office. Check it out!

· Save the weekend of August 13-15th for the American Craft Show at Fort Mason (an LCI client). Check out the oldest juried craft show in the west with 250 artists from the Bay Area and beyond.

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1 Comment

  1. david Reply

    Catherine. . .in view of the BP crisis, your counsel is extremely timely. Cheers, David