It’s as certain as death and taxes. At some point in your life, either you personally or the business where you make your livelihood, will experience a crisis situation. Perhaps you’ve already had one, and tried to work through it as best you could. Or maybe you anticipate a looming crisis, and in wanting to prepare for it, you’ve reached this page.
If that’s the case, consider yourself lucky—and smart—because by putting yourself in touch with the crisis communications experts at Red Banyan, led by Founder Evan Nierman you’ve taken a major step toward averting potentially damaging consequences. With us in your corner, we’ll give you more than a fighting chance.
What does a PR consultant do?
It’s ironic that something as universal as living through a crisis can be aided by those who work in such a relatively unknown field as crisis PR. But before going over what you can expect from a crisis PR consultant, let’s first take a step back and explore the broader arena of PR, or public relations, and what it can do for you.
To be clear, most PR firms are not crisis PR firms. A general PR agency’s function is to push out information that makes a client look good. That also extends to the products and services you may provide, or the causes you care about. So, when you work with a PR specialist, you are hiring them to be a master of persuasion, someone who will use their skills and the media contacts they’ve cultivated to portray you in the best possible light.
Out of a desire to drive business, and promote a breadth of services, most full-service PR firms list crisis consulting as among their public relations services. The problem is, the number of firms who actually focus on that type of work are few and far between. To the untrained eye, crisis PR looks like a general public relations offering, when that is simply not the case.
What is considered a PR crisis?
The difference between general PR and crisis PR can best be explained by an analogy. Say you’re having a heart attack, and you have two options. You can go into a surgical theater and have a cardiac surgeon work on you, or you can take your chances with a general practitioner.
A crisis PR consultant is that cardiac surgeon, and by virtue of being a crisis communications expert, he or she can often detect the warning signs of a crisis, and prevent it from becoming a full-fledged emergency.
When it comes to recognizing a crisis, keep in mind that people are seldom the best judges of determining whether or not they’re actually in one. Many believe that only existential disasters, or sensational, headline-grabbing developments qualify as a PR crisis, but they are wrong. It doesn’t have to be a life-threatening situation to damage someone’s reputation.
For instance, an employee getting arrested over the weekend—even when it has nothing to do with the workplace—can end up producing a full-blown media maelstrom for you and your company. Or, think about someone having a negative experience with one of your customer service representatives. That person could post their damning opinion on social media, and next thing you know, your entire brand is being impugned.
The key takeaway is that even seemingly harmless incidents can have a snowball effect. So, if there is any doubt as to whether or not you’re involved in an actual crisis, contact a crisis PR consultant, and don’t wait. You’ll get guidance on how serious it is, if at all, and be advised on what next steps to take.
How can a PR consultant help in a crisis?
In the crisis realm, the main benefit a PR specialist can provide is experience. You want someone who has worked on similar cases and is attuned to all potential outcomes. The other absolute necessity is the ability to think and work quickly. In a crisis situation, time is of the essence, and that’s when cooler heads prevail.
More specifically, the consultancy services you should expect are:
Crisis communications: Acting as a spokesperson, developing a favorable storyline, and engaging with all media outlets—these are among the many responsibilities of a skilled crisis communications expert. You want someone who can press the truth, or in other words, speak with authority, conviction, and nuance on your behalf.
Brand reputation management: A top-notch crisis PR firm should be judged not just by the good press stories they get for their clients, but by their ability to refute and diffuse explosive negative stories, sometimes killing them entirely. Or to put it another way, at times it is best to keep out of the public eye, and they can help you do that.
Fact finding: If a negative story is scheduled to go to press, or appear on the evening news, it’s imperative that your crisis consultant provides the reporter with the facts as you see them. That involves digging for those nuggets of information that can sway opinion in your favor. There are two sides to every story. Make sure your side is heard.
Help strengthen relationships: When someone drops the ball, a savvy crisis PR expert knows what to do—be upfront with your customers, and tell them what you’re doing to rectify the situation. By being transparent with your actions, you can actually win over the people you’ve inconvenienced in some way, and make them stronger advocates for your brand.
Reduce legal, personal and/or political consequences: If you are guilty of poor judgement, there is almost always a price to paid. To keep your reputation from taking too much of a hit, a reputable crisis PR agency will implore you to tell the truth, tell it all, and tell it early. That way, your story will become old news that much sooner, thus mitigating your transgressions.
When is a crisis PR consultant needed?
It may sound funny, but the best time to work with a crisis PR consultant is when there is no pressing crisis to address. Think of it this way: if companies and organizations are willing to conduct a crisis audit as a preventive measure, it will help them determine areas of possible concern in the future. Armed with that knowledge, they can help prevent potential disasters from ever taking place.
It also makes sound economic sense. By investing a little bit on the front end in order to prepare in advance, you can avoid paying more the more exorbitant rates many crisis PR firms charge to extricate you from hot water.
Of course, if you believe a crisis to be imminent, the worst thing you can do is to hide in your shell like a turtle, and pretend it will go away. It won’t. Contact a crisis consultant and get ahead of the situation. Otherwise, just like a turtle on the highway; you will be crushed.
Red Banyan’s PR consulting services
Needless to say, Red Banyan is a firm believer in the adage: an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure. That’s why we offer our clients a comprehensive crisis audit program that takes advantage of our breadth of experience. Working together, we can help create a public relations contingency plan, so that you’ll know just what to do in advance of any investigations by the media.
And because dealing with the media is so important, media training is another core service we offer. We provide systematic training so that you or anyone in your organization who completes the process will increase their confidence and competence in dealing with the media. We teach people to think like reporters, and anticipate the questions you’re most likely to face.
The fact is, as a crisis PR agency that’s dedicated to press the truth on behalf of our clients, everything we do is calculated to drive the positive messaging that frames you and your organization in the best possible light.
We invite you to contact us today to discuss how we can tailor a communications program that conveys your highest priorities, and helps you prevail in the face of crisis, or prevent it altogether.