media update's Nakedi Phala explains how you can deal with a crisis once it has hit.

A business or brand can trade in an ethical manner but still find itself in a crisis. Mistakes do happen from time to time, which is why it is vital to have a crisis communication plan in place. 

This plan can help you manage the issue quickly and efficiently, as well as prevent the further spread of negativity. 

Here are five ways to handle a PR crisis when it strikes:

1. Acknowledge the risk 

PR disasters that can dent a company's reputation can arise due to poor planning, poor leadership or unethical behaviour by individuals belonging to the company.
The first step is to accept that the damage has been done, as this will help you get to the root of the crisis.

Knowing that your brand or organisation is at risk of having its reputation tarnished for whatever reason is stressful and can threaten the performance of the company, brand or service. This means that it is vital to understand what caused the crisis, how and why it happened.

  2. Hire a successful PR agency

Many PR companies are experts in dealing specifically with crises. Your best bet would be to hire an agency that has been successful in many of its cases in dealing with PR crises. The agency can help you create guidelines for effective communication.

But remember, you may want to have a plan for dealing with a crisis before an actual crisis hits. Crisis communications needs to happen as fast as possible to minimise the damage caused.

A good PR company can recommend that you release a press statement that has been analysed before you even think about publishing it on social media platforms, other publications or forwarding it to opinion leaders. 

A media monitoring service, like Newsclip, can also assist in a crisis. Media monitoring includes various services, including: 
  • Brand tracking
  • Media analysis
  • Reputation management 
Wondering if media monitoring is the right fit for your brand? Here are Four reasons why you should invest in media monitoring

3. Take responsibility 

Many brands or companies avoid taking responsibility in fear of the unknown or amidst the 'what ifs'. At this point, having investigated the matter, it is best you take responsibility for your mistakes.

Taking responsibility can help to ensure the recovery process moves swiftly and that the crisis itself does not damage the relationship your brand has with its audience. Attempting to cover things up will only intensify the damage — instead, control the crises by taking responsibility.

4. Protect your reputation 

Warren Buffett's famous quote on reputation says: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” 

To obtain a good reputation, you can't just  'talk the talk', you have to 'walk the talk'. You can do this by helping the individuals or organisations you have harmed. How, you ask? By providing a service or a good deed, which will reflect positively on your reputation.

Find ways to make others look good — it will add merit to your organisation or brand. 

5. Maintain your image 

Building a good reputation after it has been tarnished takes time and effort. Formulate a long-term plan that can maintain your brand's image, even after the crisis has struck.

In the process of dealing with a crisis, it is best to maintain a positive relationship with relevant stakeholders. 

Activate campaigns to re-attract consumers and possibly gain new ones. Take advantage of social media platforms by communicating frequently with consumers. This can help increase awareness of the steps you take in resolving the crisis by regularly scanning through your social media platforms, website and news outlets. 

Predict the outcome of your solution before you implement it. This will help you presume whether it will be successful or not. Take the time to address rumours during your maintaining phase, if any arise. Rumors not addressed can be assumed as fact — extinguish the fires sooner than later. 

Overall, a crisis comes unexpectedly. The aim is to resolve the disaster the brand or company is faced with.