Insight

When construction is hit by crisis

How to effectively use PR to manage a publicity crisis

Just like businesses in other industries, construction companies aren’t immune from the repercussions of bad publicity. If a company is big enough, it’s inevitable that a few PR storms will arise that require careful handling. If you’re unlucky, you might find yourself in the middle of a full-blown PR crisis.

In this blog, we’re going to look at what you can do prepare and how you can actively manage a PR crisis when its here.

What is a PR crisis?

A crisis is an incident that could potentially…

  • Have a significant negative impact on your bottom line and/or
  • Severely damage your reputation

It’s more than the usual run-of-the-mill issues you deal with on a day-to-day basis – negative posts on social media, employee disputes or supply chain issues.

A crisis is when you see a disaster tidal wave approaching. It can take on a whole plethora of guises: a whistleblower exposing a toxic work culture, criminal activity or a potentially life-threatening health and safety violations.

This is when you gird your loins and send for the crisis cavalry, your crisis communications team.

Always be prepared

You can do everything possible to avoid a PR disaster, but ultimately, it might be outside of your control when the unthinkable happens. In the face of uncertainty, it’s always prudent to plan for a rainy day. Preparation is key and although you don’t know what’s around the corner and how exactly the crisis will unfold, there’s plenty of certainty in a crisis, which you can plan and prepare for.

You’ll need to have a crisis communication team in place made up of the key internal departments.

The go-to core crisis comms team will include the following departments:

  • The chief exec or relevant board member
  • PR
  • Social media
  • Customer relations
  • Human Resources
  • Legal department
  • Internal communications

Depending on the nature of the crisis, the crisis comms team will also need to include parties directly involved with the crisis.

Invest in media training

Having a bank of potential spokespeople is crucial. Anyone representing your business in front of the media will need media training, which is something you can undertake in advance.

Media training is imperative for giving your spokespeople the tools to cope with journalists’ questions. A media interview can help you communicate your company’s key messages, layout the facts and put your side of the story forward. When handled correctly, it’s an opportunity to gain your audience’s trust, correct any misinformation that might be circulating and turn a negative situation into a positive outcome.

Create a communication tree

Once you’ve got your crisis comms team in place, everyone needs to know the channels of communication and where they fit within the team. A communication tree is an easy, visual flow chart for people to receive and issue communications. When information regarding the crisis is received, for example when a Health and Safety investigation is completed , this information needs to be communicated to all members of the comms team so the information can be acted upon by the different parties.

Again, this is something that can be done ahead of any crisis so everyone knows who is passing information onto who and who should be receiving information from who.

A communication tree also allows you to see the channels of communication and who is responsible for communicating information to wider audiences outside of the crisis comms team. The members of the team will all have key stakeholders to communicate with.

Writing a media statement

When it comes to media statements, it’s always best to attribute it to an actual person, not a generic spokesperson. Be human and speak from the heart. Depending on the nature of the crisis, there’s a potential opportunity to work in a positive message here too. It’s important to remember that, whatever the issue or mistake that’s been made here, this is a one-off and not the usual manner in which the business conducts itself.

If possible, spell out and remind people of the high standards you adhere to, and add any accreditations to help back up this claim. Not only are you showing that this is an extraordinary event, but you’re also reiterating your key messages and communicating something positive. Be careful that you’re sensitive here. Depending on the crisis, promoting a positive message might not be appropriate, so tread carefully.

Produce a Q&A document

Having a robust, informative and detailed Q&A document is an absolute lifesaver and is just as, if not more, important than your media statement. It’s the difference between a calm, managed, and strategic approach, and a headless chicken act, scrambling around for information. The Q&As are a series of “if-asked responses” and need to have gone through the same rigorous approval process as the statement. You don’t want to be trying to get a comment approved when you’ve just issued your statement and you’ve got a baying national journalist on the phone.

The Q&A is a working document and needs to be updated regularly as the crisis evolves. Always ensure the crisis comms team have the correct, most recent version of the document. This is where the communications tree is useful, you can send updated versions via the communications tree, ensuring that all messages are consistent and following your corporate stance.

Hopefully, you feel a little better prepared for a PR crisis after all that. Preparedness can be the difference between a disastrous response and an articulate, sensible one, so make sure you prioritise putting processes and safeguards in place for when a PR storm comes a-raging.

Looking for someone to help you plan for a rainy day? Give Luma a call and we’ll help you future-proof your brand.

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