Crisis Communications: How to Handle Crises

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As a public relations/corporate communications strategist, I have spent a career working with extremely talented marketing communications leaders. I admire how they look at the world: with a combination of creativity and focus that pinpoints target customers and speaks directly to them, motivates them to act, connects with them, and makes them a brand believer.

It’s common for Marketing and Communications to fall under a single umbrella within an organization because the skillsets have some overlap and the work each does can boost the other’s efforts.

Despite that compatibility, however, our approaches and the way we see the world are different.

Let me explain. As a corporate communications professional, I see myself as being in the business of reputation management. Of course, I want to enhance the brand and promote its positive attributes and benefits, but my responsibility is also—and sometimes mainly—to protect the brand by identifying and mitigating risks, managing issues, and navigating crises to minimize impacts on the brand.


Marketing colleagues similarly make calculated risks when telling the brand story, attempting to win over customers, build a following, and increase sales. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Their focus is (and should be) about the customers and user experience of the brand. Then, when such amazing brand builders work with those like me, we bring our worlds together, pooling our efforts to help retain the success they have built, which might include defining a strategy on the company’s behalf to position a failing of theirs.

Often, crisis comms professionals’ time is spent conducting a 360 analysis to determine how a given situation will be perceived not only by customers but also by employees, partners, the community, and the government. Then we focus on the company’s messaging, turning it inside out to see how it could be perceived or misconstrued, whether there are legal implications, what positives there are to highlight.

Essentially, we pressure-test everything the company or organization is saying to ensure it protects or enhances the brand, making changes and improvements to minimize risks.

Most recently, with the convergence of marketing and communications, the distinction between the capability of a marketing expert and a corporate communications expert has become blurred. As a result of the confusion arising from “communications” being part of the marcomms handle, talented, smart, and trusted marketing communications leaders are being expected to flex a rarely or never-used crisis communications muscle.



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