Crisis communication is a vital aspect of public relations. Inevitably, all organizations will face a major issue at some point. This issue may be potentially damaging the brand’s reputation. In today’s connected world, where information spreads at lightning speed, an emergency communications plan is no longer ‘nice to have’ but essential when things go wrong. Unprepared organizations may suffer financial, operational, and reputational losses. Here, we look at what is crisis communications and give a crisis communications definition.
So what is crisis communication in public relations?
In short, it is the communication process used to respond to a threat to an organization's reputation. The crisis plan is used when there has been a major event.
Preparing for a crisis makes it easier for the team assigned to handle it. This helps to protect customers, employees, and the organization's assets and continue business operations until the problem passes.
Wikipedia defines it as:
"designed to protect and defend an individual, company, or organization facing a public challenge to its reputation. Crisis communication is aimed at raising awareness of a specific type of threat, the magnitude, outcomes, and specific behaviors to adopt to reduce the threat".
Another helpful definition comes from Hubspot:
"Crisis communication is a communication strategy that enables an organization to protect its reputation when a crisis or business disruption strikes."
Hopefully, this helps lay out a crisis communication meaning.
A crisis definition is any unexpected event that could adversely impact a business.
The crisis could relate to any part of the business, including finances, reputation, staff, or internal or external stakeholders. It includes the following:
This is when manufacturers, customers, or consumer watch groups find product defects that could hinder performance, harm consumers, and result in legal problems.
This refers to a negative interaction between your business and a customer, such as personal damage or injury to the customer, product quality issues, or a bad customer service experience. All of which could cause harm to the company and financial loss through lost custom or pecuniary damages.
This could be a physical threat to the company or its employees or a threat to a company’s data and other information that it keeps. A violation of company security policies and theft are included.
There is significant financial damage when an event such as a fire, explosion, chemical release, or natural disaster occurs. Also, if your company participates in environmentally harmful practices such as using non-sustainable materials - especially if your business reputation relies on being seen as the opposite, then reputational damage can occur.
No matter how big or small or whatever the industry, every company needs to have crisis communication strategies in place. The increase in online review websites and social media has hastened the need for companies to respond confidently and quickly to threats and get back on track.
The purpose of crisis communication is to connect the various internal stakeholders of a company with one another for this purpose. These include general employees, department heads, security, leadership, and the PR team.
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No business is immune to a crisis. You need to be in control to handle any public scrutiny that may follow effectively. To minimize any damage, it is crucial to be open with all stakeholders, including the media. Crisis communication is an important tool within public relations to reduce reputational and financial damage.
Clear communication channels and procedures must be in place to provide employees with the relevant knowledge to make correct decisions during crises. You can limit the impact on your brand and company by communicating quickly and accurately during and after the crisis. This is to give the greatest chance of avoiding permanent brand damage.
Crisis communication plans provide the template for a company in a moment of crisis to respond accordingly. It also helps prevent future events and serves as the blueprint for crisis handling. The purpose is to show empathy and also to deliver correct information. Another aim is to demonstrate competency. Your organization’s competency in handling the crisis reassures your customers and can go a long way to restoring confidence.
It is important to be aware of the differences between crisis communication and crisis management, even though the terms get used interchangeably. There are many components of crisis management, of which crisis communications is one element - and a significant one.
What is crisis management in public relations?
Crisis management concerns the overall coordination of an organization's response to avoid damage. It covers pre-crisis, so prevention, media training, and preparation. It also covers post-crisis management to analyze the results of the execution.
Crisis communication, instead, is gathering and disseminating crisis-related information and opinions to interested parties to protect and defend an organization's reputation.
There is a helpful way to remember the differences: Crisis management is concerned with the reality of the crisis. Crisis communication deals with perceptions of the situation.
It is always best to research and prepare for the worst-case scenarios, deal with them when they occur, and manage against them occurring in the future. We have covered what a crisis is, the purpose of crisis communication, and the importance of handling it.
The consequences of not planning can be severe, and you cannot assume a crisis will not happen to you.
The time to put together a plan for handling negative press or an emergency is before it happens, not after. Hiring a crisis communication firm familiar with your industry can be wise to guide you.