There are different definitions of crisis PR specialists such as “crisis manager”, “spin doctor”, “flack” or “fixer”. Basically, if you are in PR the risk management is probably your dreamed super job. They say “Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out”. And we would add to that it’s the professionals, who know how to manage it and here are the rules we follow when dealing with issues or crisis management.
Only take clients you can help: you can’t help people if they don’t tell the truth. You can’t plan a winning strategy if you don’t have all parts of the story. If the client starts to twist the truth it is in both sides best interest to stop working together. Most of the time the crisis situation is like playing a game of chess and you need to predict every move or at least have a proper and immediate reaction. Telling the truth is always the best choice, because we believe that no one can blame you when you tell the truth.
Social media and Internet are game changers: we live in the world of Internet and it is almost impossible to hide anything. Social media has given the individuals so much power. Basically everyone with a smart phone is a self-employed journalist. Stories happened so fast. You have to catch up with it and make sure how you want to respond and what you want to say and when. Otherwise, you are “2000 and late” as we joke in the office.
Be honest: When you screw up you have to own that. Be honest. Dive in. People can smell the bull shit. Before writing statements, ask the client “what would you want to say?” Never ever make-up stories.
Always trust your gut: if you’re in PR, the leading character of ABC TV show “Scandal”, Olivia Pope, likely tops your list of superheroes. A consistent theme on Scandal is Olivia trusting her gut. Usually, the client just wants you to shut down the crisis situation. But the most important thing is the result after the crisis. Your main target has to be to turn the crisis into opportunity. There are different ways to do that. For example the person who is in trouble or the company in trouble may chance their public attitude or client’s policy so they can become more popular than ever. Relay on you own experience and even be ready to give 1 or 2 examples of people or companies that chose an alternative route and what happened. You want to know that your help is resulting in a change for the better. Your gut will guide you to this answer.
Be calm: from the very first moment the client must feel that you are confident and that you know what you are doing to handle the situation. Be ready to fight for your strategy and always use relevant examples from your own experience. Explain to the client what would went wrong if he chooses a different path. Your world, your rules.
Beware -crisis PR is filthy and thankless, but it is very addictive!