Crisis Prevention or Crisis Management?

Impending Crisis

Protecting the brand’s reputation against damage is a key objective clients want to achieve through Public Relations.

But how to go about it?

Protecting the brand’s reputation can be done in two ways:

1. Managing the risks after it has come to the fore.

2. Preventing the risks from emerging.

I prefer preventing the risks from emerging as a go-to strategy because it keeps the brand reputation intact.

The reason for my preference is simple: Any brand’s reputation takes a beating once a crisis has already happened. This is so even if the communications team burns the midnight oil to manage it.

I am not the only one who feels so. The PR industry feels the same.

In a poll I conducted last week, 79% of the respondents said they prefer preventing the risks from emerging.

Crisis prevention

A question may be asked: If so many PR professionals believe in this, why do we see so many crises happening?

In the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, we can prevent reputation risks but not all. Some risks will still emerge and lead to crises.

We should focus our energies towards what is doable.

The problem is something prevents us from doing that. We focus only on managing the crisis after it has happened. It is an interesting phenomenon.

The prime culprit for that is the human tendency to undermine what we haven’t experienced yet.

This makes PR stakeholders undermine the value of action to prevent crises. “Why to work on something that has not happened” becomes the go-to reason.

Having said that, there are signs of change in the PR industry, as indicated by the poll results.

Clients want their PR partners to focus on preventing crises from happening.

How can we go about it?

It’s a shared responsibility to start with.

Both partners, client and the agency, have to work in tandem to make it happen.

Here is how you can do it:

  1. Keep your eyes and ears on the ground to identify possible triggers. News publications are good platforms for identifying such triggers. Some triggers can be identified before they are reported if you share good relations with journalists. For example, journalists can share insights on upcoming government policies which will enable you to take necessary actions in time.
  2. Don’t ignore internal triggers, like employee complaints and non-payment to vendors.
  3. Scrutinise your compliance with corporate governance norms periodically.
  4. Keep a quality check on your production line.
  5. Keep your personal life clean of wrongdoings.
  6. Most important of all is to discuss with the communications team how an action may be perceived by the target audience.

You need to focus on these broad areas if you want to keep a reputation crisis at bay.

Each of these areas has a playbook but that’s for later.

For now, just commit to being vigilant and proactive.

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Hi there, 👋

I am Praveen, founder of StrategyVerse Consulting.

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