Crisis management is a critical organizational function. Failure can result in serious harm to stakeholders, losses for an organization, or end its very existence. Public relations practitioners are an integral part of crisis management teams. So a set of best practices and lessons gleaned from our knowledge of crisis management would be a very useful resource for those in public relations
There are plenty of definitions for a crisis. At Heather Ostertag and Associates a crisis is defined as a significant threat to operations that can have negative consequences if not handled properly. In crisis management, the threat is the potential damage a crisis can inflict on an organization, its stakeholders, and an industry. A crisis can create three related threats:
(1) public safety,
(2) financial loss, and
(3) reputation loss.
Some crises, such as industrial accidents and product harm, can result in injuries and even loss of lives. Crises can create financial loss by disrupting operations, creating a loss of market share/purchase intentions, or spawning lawsuits related to the crisis.. A crisis reflects poorly on an organization and will damage a reputation to some degree. Clearly these three threats are interrelated. Injuries or deaths will result in financial and reputation loss while reputations have a financial impact on organizations.
Effective crisis management handles the threats sequentially. The primary concern in a crisis has to be public safety. A failure to address public safety intensifies the damage from a crisis. Reputation and financial concerns are considered after public safety has been remedied. Ultimately, crisis management is designed to protect an organization and its stakeholders from threats and/or reduce the impact felt by threats.
Crisis management is a process designed to prevent or lessen the damage a crisis can inflict on an organization and its stakeholders. As a process, crisis management is not just one thing. Crisis management can be divided into three phases:
(1) pre-crisis – this phase is concerned with prevention and preparation;
(2) crisis response – this phase is when management is actually responding to a crisis and
(3) post-crisis – this phase looks for ways to better prepare for the next crisis and fulfills commitments made during the crisis phase including follow-up information.
We at Heather Ostertag and Associates have several associates who have expertise in this area and would welcome the opportunity to assist you in developing a crisis communications strategy that allows your company/organization to be pro-active in responding to a real or perceived crisis.
A solid crisis communication strategy will enable you to create positive results from potentially damaging situations. It is not that the problem occurs it is how you respond to it.