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PR crisis planning in 8 easy steps

A PR crisis can happen at any time and out of the blue. In these days of social media and the ‘court of public opinion’, the way you handle a crisis in what’s known as that first ‘golden hour’ after it breaks is crucial. Handle it badly and it can spell disaster. But there is a way to safeguard your company’s reputation. The best handled crises are the ones that a company has sat down and thought about in advance. And the advantage of handling a crisis well is that it can actually raise customer loyalty when you garner a grudging respect for the way you put things right. Planning for a PR crisis means that your organisation swings smoothly into action when a storm breaks. However, you need to know how to prepare adequately. Here are Oxygen’s tips for PR crisis planning.

PR crisis planning step #1

Gather your employees or a core team to look at your company’s vulnerabilities and to list the kinds of issues that may arise. These should include things like possible scandals, systems breakdowns or general emergencies such as power outages, floods or fire. How will you take care of your customers in each of these situations? And what will they want to hear from you?

PR crisis planning step #2

Categorise each of these into ‘most likely’ and ‘least likely’. Develop a holding statement for each of the ‘most likely’ scenarios which will buy you some time to investigate and come up with a more detailed response.

PR crisis planning step #3

Develop lists of all interested parties in each of these scenarios, back up your lists and think about how you’d communicate with them. So, for instance, if your computers go down, will you use staff smartphones to send out tweets?

PR crisis planning step #4

Don’t forget to include your own employees in this list. Your company needs to speak with one voice, and staff need to be told what your policy is, and to be kept updated on the situation, so that they don’t inadvertently speak out of turn to journalists. You need an internal communications PR crisis plan that mirrors your external one.

PR crisis planning step #5

Taking your wider communications plan into account, decide on how you will broadcast your general holding statements in the event of a crisis. Again, make a list of these outlets and back it up because you don’t want to be scrabbling for contact details in a crisis. Will you contact the local paper to give your version first? Will you put up a holding page on your website? Will you direct stakeholders to your web pages via tweets?

PR crisis planning step #6

Put a hierarchy of people in place who will be accessible (even on a weekend) to act as spokespeople. These should have sufficient sensitivity, interpersonal skills, media awareness and training, plus authority within the company to handle the situation. You need a media friendly, sympathetic face broadcasting a consistent message.

PR crisis planning step #7

Have a trained social media expert on hand in case of a deluge of tweets or Facebook comments. These can snowball unexpectedly late at night, or if it’s a global company, at all times of the day and night. You need someone who knows how to handle the press and social media, not just someone who uses social media a lot, at the helm.

PR crisis planning step #8

Just finally, if you’re the owner of an SME, agree a policy that can roll out without you. If your PR crisis plan has to wait even half an hour for an okay from you to be put into action, it’ll be too late. The plan will be worthless. And if you’re on holiday, return immediately. Nothing riles consumers and customers like the idea that the CEO or MD is sunning themselves, while they’re suffering.


Every organisation, and the potential PR crises they face, are different. Our PR experts can help you plan for a crisis so that if one strikes, public perception of your company comes out stronger than before. Give Oxygen a call today on 0845 2606 255.



Katie Sanders :Katie took a sales background into marketing, and holds chartered marketer status with the Chartered Institute of Marketing. A devotee of PR she heads up our publicity team.