• Diane Mulligan, APR

3 Takeaways From M&C's Silver Anvil Award-Winning Crisis Communications

A couple nights ago, I was watching the new show Emergency Call about 9-1-1 dispatchers. I have such respect for the 9-1-1 operators and how they keep their cool while they listen to the crises unfolding on the other end of the call. It all goes back to planning and training. At M&C, our training handling news crises as former journalists gives us the experience to stay calm in mind and body and solve the problem (we call this our MOVE THE STAIRS training).

We use this experience to keep things calm when we get a call from a client who has found themselves in the throes of a crisis situation or is worried that an issue could turn into a reputation nightmare. We pride ourselves on our Brand Protection™ PR expertise. But mostly, we feel good about helping clients navigate the sometimes frustrating, sometimes scary, always brand-threatening curveballs that crop up when you least expect it.

This week, we joined the top crisis communications firms in the country by winning the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Silver Anvil Award for Most Effective Campaign $5,000 Or Less for Government. While this award recognizes our work on behalf of a client facing an unusual situation, we’d like to share some takeaways that apply nearly every time you deal with a PR crisis.

What is the first step a company should do when responding to a crisis?

When the phone rings, with the first word you can immediately feel the stress in the caller’s voice. It’s a call about a potential crisis PR situation.

  • First: breathe. Take a deep breath and help your brain get out of fight-or-flight mode and into problem-solving mode.

  • Second: clearly define the crisis and estimate your best and worst outcome. This gives you a roadmap to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

  • Third: assemble your Brand Protection™ team, including, if possible, outside PR consultants. This doesn’t need to be a PR firm but could be other PR practitioners in your industry who can give you wise outside perspective on the issue you’re facing.

When no news is good news

Remember what feels like a crisis to you may actually just be a smaller PR issue. Accurately defining your situation will inform how you deal with the situation and keep you from overreacting. You don’t want your response to elevate interest in the issue. Remember that “What is crisis communications in a PR plan?” can be defined as little-to-no news coverage.

What it does mean is finding appropriate messages to talk to your target audiences, keeping them up to date with new information, and always being prepared for coverage to explode, especially on social media.

In the case of our award-winning PR, we won a national award for a story you probably never saw or heard on your local news. Our planning and training, like those 9-1-1 dispatchers, helps us to quickly respond and deal with a PR crisis. Do you know what steps to take in a crisis? It can make all the difference in protecting your brand and your business.

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Denver | Tucson | Ireland
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