The foundations for the best and most effective crisis PR plans are not made in the heat of the moment. They are prepared well in advance and built to be flexible, based on several important factors. Without this innate malleability, brands lose control of the message and find themselves falling behind in responding to claims, stories, and counter-narratives.
To keep that from happening to you, here are a few guidelines to ensure your crisis PR plan is evergreen:
Cultivate communication channels on a consistent basis. You don’t want to be trying to make media friends in the middle of a PR crisis. You need to have these connections well-established, so that your narrative can get out there, through trusted sources, early and often.
Review your media relationships frequently. The information communication landscape is shifting, but it’s moving more and faster in some industries and with certain demographics than it is in others. Your audience has a favorite communication channel, and it might be different than it was a year ago. Are you paying attention? Because it doesn’t matter how good your message is if your audience never hears it.
Know who will handle your message at every stage of creation and delivery. When every member of your PR team understands exactly who will be involved in each step, as well as when and where they’re responsible to contribute, you avoid message confusion, as well as timing miscues or accidental misinformation that take a crisis and make it worse.
The previous step also allows you to consider your team members’ unique abilities and talents, so you know exactly where they need to be in the process, and you know if you have any important holes to fill in that process. Do you have the right people in all the right places, and do each of these people have all the resources and training they need to respond with speed and accuracy, based on your response plan?
Test your intended message with focus groups from the target audience before widespread release. What might sound great to you could fall flat or, worse, backfire when it reaches the intended audience. It’s always best practice to reduce the potential for this.
Of course, there’s a caveat to this list. These suggestions are starting points. Every crisis PR plan will have unique elements that require a custom, specific, and targeted response as well. Maintaining flexibility in the framework of your PR response allows your team to make these specific additions and drop them into the messaging without delaying response time or confusing the narrative associated with the crisis PR response.