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The Role of Crisis Communication in Public Relations

May 6, 2008
It is important for an organization to have one or more spokespeople who are experienced and can stay calm when communicating during a crisis. Crisis communication is how people know what is going on and it is very important when it comes to public relations. This is why it is important to have an adequate number of spokespeople for your organization because sometimes it isn't sufficient enough to have just one person doing the talking. It looks better on the public relations side of things if you have more than one who are both on the same page and can effectively speak to the media and people on a face-to-face basis.

There are several things that must be done in crisis communication. It isn't just a matter of looking at the situation and coming up with a response within five minutes. To give a proper response, it is important to evaluate the situation and follow a certain set of rules to make sure the public gets the adequate information. These steps are:

- Developing and delivering at least three key points about the situation. These messages must be relayed in such a way that everyone can understand what is being said. Sometimes these messages do not have to be anything extensive, depending on the situation. Such an example is when a company is going through a lawsuit. Most companies do not allow commenting on pending litigation, so the spokesperson may simply say, "no comment."

- Make sure that all employees are up-to-date on what is going on. This creates consistency and allows for adequate response for various situations that may arise during a crisis. Many times this interaction should take place face-to-face instead of in a memo.

- Make sure you identify who can be trusted with information and who cannot be. These can be considered your unofficial spokespersons if they must be asked questions. These are the people who will adhere to what you tell them to say. In crisis communication, it is important to stay sensitive to various pieces of information that could cause an even bigger issue.

- A rumor-control system should be put in place. This means that the system must be up and running, allowing others to ask questions and get immediate answers before they begin communicating their speculations with others. What starts out as a question soon becomes fact when it is passed from person-to-person. This can cause a situation to become much more difficult. Rumors result in new issues that must be given attention. This can take attention away from the issue at hand.

Just make sure that those on the inside know exactly what is going on because they are just as important as those on the outside wanting to know what the crisis is, how it is going to impact them, and how to rectify the situation. It is even fair to develop key messages for employees, but to have key messages that are used for those on the outside as well. It is important to implement a system and a strategy that will not cause any type of mass panic, depending on the situation. Sometimes those situations are limited to a company and other times they can influence an entire population.

Just be sure to not jump the gun. Instead, develop strategies that will relay the message effectively. Both inside and outside communication go hand-in-hand in order for things to run smoothly. This shows that crisis communication in public relations is very important when ensuring the safety of people, their affairs, and of those directly involved with the situation.
About the Author
Polaris Public Relations is a Toronto public relations company having extensive experience in all areas of public relations in a variety of industry sectors. Core competencies include media relations, corporate communications, issues management and more.
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