Public Relations

by Debbie Leven

The PR role in crisis management

Typically, the PR department will be informed of possible crises. PR staff will play a role in helping to manage the incident, including

  • Advising on the strategic approach to take
  • Identifying the key audiences to be communicated with
  • Drafting support materials – statements, questions and answers, and briefing documents.

Ideally, the PR department will be involved in three stages:

  • Before the incident has become public – to advise on handling communication
  • As the incident becomes public – handling press and media attention and putting any communication plan into action
  • To support communications following an incident – ongoing communication with key groups about the organisation’s actions, what is being done to ensure the incident does not happen again and so on.

The earlier the PR department is made aware of a potential incident, the better prepared the team can be to manage attention from the press and media and key audiences, including staff.

Supporting the PR department in a crisis

You can play an important role in supporting the PR department in a number of ways:

  • If you become aware of anything which could impact negatively on the reputation of the organisation, it is important to ensure your line manager knows and that the PR department is made aware, as appropriate. Most organisations have a crisis-handling system in place. It is helpful to remember that different people will assess risk differently. It’s much better to over report – the PR department or your PR adviser will be able to assess the PR risk and the steps that should be taken
  • You can act as the ‘eyes’ and ‘ears’ in your department and report any issues that have the potential for damaging reputation
  • Also, certainly with internal communication, if you feel that messages are not being conveyed as effectively as possible, and the responsibility lies with the PR department, then closer working may be helpful.