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Managing a PR Crisis: Q&A with Amanda Coleman

The 21st century media-scope has seen a multitude of additions that have revolutionised PR.

Enter the age of ‘Citizen Journalist’, brewing ‘Twitter storms’ and the lightning fast speed of modern communication. If faced with a crisis, could your communications strategy weather the storm?

Managing PR Crisis

Earlier this month Amanda Coleman (Head of Corporate Communications, Greater Manchester Police) hosted a Vocus webinar where she shared the challenges, opportunities and points to consider when drawing up your crisis communications strategy.

Missed this webinar? Listen on demand here!

Here are some of your questions she didn’t get a chance to answer:

Q: How do you suggest a public sector organisation should deal with blatant negative social media posts? 

A: It really depends on what the level of negativity is and whether there is an opportunity to highlight the organisation’s position in a non-confrontational way.

We have found engaging with cyclists who have been very anti-police has been beneficial. However, with some individuals it is clear that they will not engage or  be open to a reasoned discussion. In a few cases, we will ignore the negativity.

It is always worth looking at what the sphere of influence is of the person concerned as well.

Q: Do you gather feedback from the rest of the company as part of your internal comms strategy, if so, how?

A: We do gather feedback from around the organisation and one of the best ways of doing this is through a network of staff communicators who help to share information and provide feedback. These are people who volunteer to help share information and give views from their team/area etc. 

Q: When should one think about hiring a company to develop “dark sites” for a business?

A: I would always prefer to be able to have the main website as something that can be adapted to deal with a crisis. This means having the ability to replace the home page for information if the issue is that serious or to be able to update with information in a less prominent way if it was not quite a serious.

I am aware some companies have ‘dark sites’, but my preference is to be able to make the decisions, keep people focused on the main website and to be able to change/update and improve the information on the main site.

Q: Do you feel that the more “high profile” the crisis is, the harder it is to manage the information?

Managing a PR Crisis

A media crush doesn’t have to make information management difficult.

A: Yes, I think this is inevitable. The more people interested in an incident, the more questions asked, the more speculation there is and the more information is floating around the Internet etc.

This doesn’t necessarily make it harder to manage if you think less about the communicator’s role being one of control and more one about sharing, and assisting people during the crisis.

Q: What are your key components/cogs to building a skeleton comms strategy?

A: These are pretty simple really. Have a clear aim and know what you want to achieve, understand what channels you have available to use, what each brings and how you will be able to use them. Have clear roles outlined, e.g. who is keeping shareholders/stakeholders updated, who will be monitoring news and who looks after social media.

The police have a very clear structure to deal with incidents which can assist us in having clarity about the roles and who is in charge/decision maker. Have some details about how you will return to normality after the incident/issue, some form of exit plan to get back to normality. There are also some basics like where the ‘emergency comms bag’ is and that it includes necessary names, numbers, equipment etc.

See how Vocus’ PR Software can help protect your organisation in the time of a crisis! 

Image: reynermedia, Artur Czachowski (Creative Commons)

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