Importance of Public Relations and Crisis Management Planning to Your Business

Are public relations and crisis management planning important to your business? The answer is simple and direct. Public relations and crisis management planning are not only important to your business, they are both CRUCIAL to your business, regardless of your type of business. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, business is news. Plant closings, mergers and acquisitions, unemployment, strikes, labor negotiations, company expansions, building projects, construction-related accidents and catastrophes are often the lead story on the front page or the six o’clock news. Yet many organizations are totally unprepared or at least ill-prepared to handle the public relations and crisis management aspects of these events. This unpreparedness can lead to many negative and undesirable results for you, your employees, your clients and customers, your company and your business and industry sector.

Many businesses always have been and always will be in a highly visible position to the general public and the media. For example, the building and construction industry is important to the economy, as well as the overall health, safety & welfare of the public. The media are very interested in the building and construction industry because of the potential “high interest” stories it can generate, both positive and negative. To succeed in today’s business world, all businesses must learn to manage rapid change and crises and work diligently to develop strong public relations and crisis management plans.

A general public relations program is important to your business to: complement advertising; provide research capabilities for marketing efforts; provide capabilities for special events to increase company & industry visibility; monitor governmental organizations; to communicate the state-of-the-industry to the public, including views on legislation, regulations, economic conditions, and other factors and events impacting your business; and to communicate with past and existing clients. A crisis management plan, including public relations aspects, is absolutely essential to maintain a company’s credibility and positive image in the face of adversity. The company’s customers, employees, management, financial supporters, industry associates, the general public and the media need to feel that you are well organized and have the ability to handle a crisis in a very professional manner. Crises do not afford the luxury of time to pause and think thoroughly through the specific problem. Therefore, there is a need to be prepared for every type of emergency most likely to happen.I believe that many crises in business, just as in our daily lives, are often foreseeable. These crises can be managed and can provide unprecedented opportunities for positive public relations. A majority of businesses are reluctant to prepare for adversity because they do not want to admit that their business organization could ever be guilty of poor performance or mistakes.

A company which does not prepare for the possibility that some plan may not work or that conditions of business may change quickly - including changes beyond their control - will soon find itself unable to deal with a crisis and therefore will suffer severe negative effects on the business and its image to the public and its clients.

The most critical time for your business, when it comes to public relations, is when a catastrophe, scandal, or some other negative event occurs which involves your business or industry sector at large. Things can and do go wrong in the best managed companies and organizations. Therefore, by accepting this fact and anticipating certain crises, the potential damage from the crises may be minimized. Contingency planning for crises is not only a good management practice in any organization but, in my view, it is a mandatory practice for any business.

Many businesses today have high risk, high visibility, high impact on the public and our everyday lives, and high exposure to potential crises. Because of these characteristics, the potential damage from a crisis can be greatly multiplied. An unprepared, misinformed, or ill-at-ease company spokesperson; a disgruntled employee; and a victim of a tragedy at a building site have the potential of doing inestimable damage to your business or industry by their remarks to the media. Yet there are countless times when a company representative is thrust into the spotlight as an official “spokesperson” with little or no training in dealing with the media, especially in a crisis situation. In fact, when it comes to dealing with the media, most people would rather “be excused” from the task, because they are ill-prepared psychologically and professionally to deal with the media. In today’s world, you must become prepared psychologically and professionally.

Conducting public relations activities without a plan would be the same as someone trying to build a quality building project without plans and specifications or a business trying to manage the growth of their business without any plans. Conducting crisis communications and public relations during emergencies without a plan and training could be about the same as committing suicide or at least “shooting yourself in the foot,” because of the potential damage that could result to your company’s image, business, employees, management, etc. and to the image and impact on your industry.

If you don’t believe the potential damage that can result from what I have written above, think about the effect of poor public relations efforts during the TMI accident, NASA’s Challenger tragedy, the EXXON Valdez oil spill event, or during the last major building site accident and the impact of the negative image on the companies and their industries. Or think about the effect of good public relations efforts during the Tylenol incident; during the odometer rollback incident at Chrysler; or during the last successful rescue at a construction site accident and the impact of the positive image on these companies and their industries.

It is time to truly recognize the importance of public relations and crisis management and their potential impact on your business. It is also time to do something about it! There is no better place to start than within your own organization and industry and professional associations by developing public relations plans, that include crisis management plans, and by training key employees on how to deal with the media. With the risks as high as they are in your business, don’t leave public relations and crisis management to chance or to a “seat of the pants” approach. Make a commitment and start planning for your future public relations and crisis management efforts today. The futures of your company and to your industry are at risk. With a strong commitment to good public relations and crisis management planning, the results can be tremendous. Without a strong commitment, the results can be disastrous.

Author:.

J. Glenn Ebersole, Jr. is a multi-faceted professional, who is recognized as a visionary, guide and facilitator in the fields of marketing, public relations, management, and engineering. He is the Founder & Chief Executive of the Lancaster, PA based multi-disciplinary & strategic thinking consulting practices, J. G. Ebersole Associates and The Renaissance Group™. He is a Certified Facilitator and business and strategic thinking and planning coach to a diverse list of clients. Also...

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