A Tech PR Firm’s Crisis Management Survival Guide

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Michiko Morales

911, what is your emergency?

A crisis can hit any company at any time. In fact, according to a recent PWC survey, 65 percent of CEOs surveyed experienced at least one crisis in the past three years, while half had gone through two or more during that time.

The tech industry is especially vulnerable, since one tiny mistake, a simple misconfiguration, can cost a company millions of dollars. Oftentimes, the non-monetary damages – including reputational – are the most detrimental.

To mitigate the negative impact of a PR disaster, check out this quick crisis management survival guide.

Public Relations Strategy: Pre-Crisis

Before things go from bad to worse, mitigate the impact of a crisis by taking action.

So, what’s the secret?

Forming a Crisis Management A-team: You’ve seen this scenario play out. A crisis hits and all of a sudden there are 50 people in the room. But, does Karen from accounting really need to be there? The answer is almost always “no.”

When time is of the essence, decisions need to be made quickly. Forming a crisis management A-team ahead of time will help to expedite a response plan. Try building a team of no more than 10 people: the CEO, legal counsel, PR team and anyone else the C-suite deems essential – and not one soul more.

Within this team, you’ll need to identify the spokesperson. Ideally this should be a senior staffer experienced in speaking with the media. If this person isn’t media trained, schedule a training session ASAP.

Public Relations Strategy: Active Crisis

And so, it begins. Your company’s social media pages are blowing up with negative reviews. A glitch knocked your website offline. Your customers have been hacked. Whatever the crisis, you’re now in the thick of things and have to react ASAP. What do you do?

Prepare a Statement: Remediating a crisis takes time; they often take weeks or even months to completely resolve. However, immediate communication is essential to crisis management. This is where we PR pros come in.

The red phone rings and, like Clark Kent, we put on our cape and fly to the rescue.

Meanwhile, as your tech experts are busy working to resolve the issue, the communications team needs to prepare and disseminate a statement, preferably within the first 20 minutes of a crisis. The statement should be short and to the point. The goal of this statement is to let your customers, employees and stakeholders know that:

  1. You’re aware of the issue.
  2. You’re actively working to resolve it.
  3. You understand their frustrations and concerns.
  4. You’ve arranged for someone to answer their questions.

Public Relations Strategy: Post-Crisis

The dust has settled. The issue has been resolved. Now what? Rebuild trust.

The reputational hit a company takes after a crisis can last for years. Take, for example, the Equifax data breach which exposed the personal information of more than 145.5 million consumers. More than a year later, 54 percent of Americans say they’re still worried about the fallout from the hack.

Post-crisis PR should center around honest communication. Messaging should acknowledge the past mistake, emphasize steps the company is taking to ensure that the crisis never happens again and convey how much the company values and appreciates its customers and employees.

Following these essential pieces of a crisis management strategy will have you well on your way to keeping the fallout of a PR disaster at a minimum. Are you still building your business’s PR strategy? Try incorporating the tactics from our free guide, “The 5 Required Strategic Elements to Maximize PR for Your Tech Company.”

From the Blog

Leah Nurik