Crisis Communications: There’s no time to wait when it comes to protecting your reputation

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By: Katie Trexler Kern

These days there is no shortage of headline grabbing public relations crises: sexual harassment charges, food contamination, inappropriate comments or behavior from an executive or employees.

How do organizations get through these crisis situations unscathed, or in a manner that maintains their customers and allows them to successfully carry on with their missions?

The most successful ones start building their Reputation Risk Management (RRM) Plan long before a crisis hits.

RRM is an involved, multi-faceted process that should include everyone at your organization, from the new hire to the CEO.

At Evolution Communications we often work with clients who are preparing for a potential crisis situation or are actually in the midst of one. We are already supporting some clients with time-tested crisis management techniques, but with today’s 24-hour news cycle and vast social media platforms, one unexpected, negative event or crisis can quickly topple a company or organization.  At the very least, a negative event can cost a company customers, future business or stock value. This is why RRM matters so much; your reputation is your foundation and it deserves, and demands, protection.

To that end, I recently completed the Reputation Risk Management (RRM) Certificate Program through Public Relations Society of America, and the skills and tools I gained from this six-week course are invaluable.

A strong reputation will undoubtedly help you better withstand a negative event.  It can also be used to your competitive advantage. The flip side of that is that a poor reputation makes it harder to weather a negative blow or have the support needed to withstand a crisis. And remember: protecting your group’s standing in the public eye means you need to spend time and effort establishing a solid reputation to begin with.

So, where do you begin your reputation risk management journey?

First, it takes buy in from your organization’s executives that this truly is important, then it takes thoughtful planning.

You must define your brand, mission and core values.

What assets set you apart and can propel you to greater success?
What potential risks or events could disrupt the work you do and your mission?
What social issues do you want to engage in (or avoid)?

Once you know the answers to these questions, you can use them as a guide to maintain your reputation risk management foundation. It takes clear planning and commitment to the effort so you’re prepared for anything that comes your way.

This is done on a daily basis by generating positive messages through the media— not just coming up with a tag line that sounds good. Someone in the organization should be monitoring what’s being said about you and responding quickly and appropriately when there’s a negative event. It’s about truly living your mission and core values in such a way that no one doubts your authenticity.  It’s about the causes you champion, the way you treat customers or anyone you may encounter in the work day.

Now you’re probably asking, “Who has the time for this? How can we afford to do all of this, time-wise and money-wise, while also doing the routine work we need to do?”

It’s about priorities. Now that you understand this is one, I trust you’ll find the time.

After all, your organization’s reputation hangs in the balance.