When your organization has a crisis on its hands, no matter how drastic, you may think that nobody could possibly handle it better than the team you have. The people involved—those who are working daily with your processes, image and staff—should be the ones best equipped to handle a delicate situation involving your organization. Right?
There are a number of reasons why this is not necessarily true. In fact, in some cases it might even be detrimental to let internal employees completely handle your company’s crisis communications, as they may simply be too close to the issues to communicate about it effectively. In these situations, it’s helpful to allow a more neutral third party to step in and provide perspective.
Public relations professionals are particularly apt at handling crisis communications, and if you don’t already work with an agency or consultant for these purposes, you might want to consider it. A communications specialist can help you develop a proactive plan in case of a crisis situation, and then help you implement it if or when the time comes.
There are a number of reasons why you think about working with an outside source familiar with crisis communications:
1) Business people aren’t always writing people. You may feel like you have the best managers out there, but that doesn’t necessarily make them good communicators. Typically, business writing is short and to the point—perhaps even blunt. When you need to get a critical message out to the public, you need to be both concise and sensitive. A professional copywriter will know how to do just that.
2) A third party adds perspective. Public relations professionals know how to communicate in a crisis, and will provide the best practices you need in a tough situation. They might not be part of your day-to-day world, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Someone who comes in with a fresh perspective will better know what your target audience needs to hear from your brand.
3) It takes one to know one. Public relations and communications firms are full of writers and journalists—just like the news media. They take all aspects of communication into consideration, including possible media reactions, the tone of your messages and who within your organization should serve as the “spokesperson.” In this way, your message becomes clear and, hopefully, better received.
Not every crisis is going to require outside help. But before you decide how to react, ask yourself: does this crisis have the potential to be made worse by a misinterpreted message? Remember, you should be qualifying whoever handles your crisis by his or her understanding of your audience’s needs and perspective—not just your company’s best interests.
Allison Lewis is an associate editor with ProPRcopy