The 5 cardinal sins of handling a PR crisis

Most businesses are likely to face a PR blip at some point. Given that the reputation of your company is one of your greatest assets, a sudden PR storm can seriously endanger the public perception of your brand if not properly managed.

People want to feel they can trust your business, and the mishandling of a crisis can shake the trust that your bottom line is built on.

If you find yourself in the middle of a PR predicament, it is easy to react in ways that serve only to exacerbate the situation and turn a manageable issue into a full-blown disaster. That said, here are five key “don’ts” of handling a crisis:


  1. Forget the plan

While no-one plans for a mistake, it certainly does not hurt to have a plan in place for when one occurs. Not only will this help you break down and navigate what can be a stressful and overwhelming situation, but also ensures each member of your response team are on the same page.

A crisis should be handled with a clear strategy in place, with each member of your organisation clear on how and when they should respond.


  1. Go radio silent

It might be tempting to ignore the problem in the hope that it will go away, but it also means you have relinquished your control over the issue and your ability to resolve both it and your reputation.

Shutting down communication is an ill-advised idea. It can lead to the crisis simply escalating beyond what was previously manageable, while opening the floor to less-than-charitable speculation.

Similarly, offering “no comment” is a huge misstep in media relations, and can easily be misconstrued as covering something up, or simply trying to avoid the issue altogether.


  1. React in anger

It is natural for emotions to run high during challenging times, but when the reputation of your company is on the line, it is important to ensure your responses are measured and calm.

Even if you are completely in the right, lashing out in anger or responding aggressively to the media will only serve to further damage the public impression of your company. Instead, put emotions on the backburner, and take a strategic approach to communications.


  1. Get your timing wrong

Successfully handling a PR crisis requires good timing. You do not want to delay your response, as this can easily be interpreted as simply ignoring the situation, while giving the public more time to gather an inaccurate impression of events.

However, it is also important to avoid responding prematurely before you have a solid grasp of the unfolding situation. Doing so can lead to backtracking on what was previously stated, or, even worse, contradicting yourself.

If you do make a statement, but do not have key information to the questions being asked, be upfront about it, and assure that you will make a fuller statement once ready.


  1. Ignore the takeaway

While it is essential to properly address a PR incident, it is also worth bearing in mind that a period of bad press does not spell the end for you and your business.

What is more important is that the situation was handled in the right way, as people are likely to retain how you acted when they are forming their impression of your company.

Conducting a post-crisis assessment is key, as it will help you breakdown and take stock of the situation after the dust has settled. Even the worst PR disaster presents an opportunity to learn, and incorporate those lessons into your crisis strategy.

If you would like an informal chat about crisis management, contact the Make More Noise team today via or call 0121 594 0712.