Crisis Communications 101: 5 Steps to Respond to a PR Crisis

Crisis Communications 101

PR crisis – every company’s worst nightmare. PR crises have been increasing partly due to constant exposure to social media channels, the 24/7 cycle of news stories and increase of customer’s feedback on every single feed.

You can’t escape it because as a company or a SME you’re almost one customer review, a Twitter (now X) rant or Instagram reel or TikTok post from getting trolled or attacked by online netizens. These negative posts can ultimately affect your company’s reputation, sales and even customer’s feedback.

In Singapore, there have been a slate of PR crises nightmare. For instance, a Hotpot restaurant chain Haidilao has taken back its offer on tiered discounts after it faced backlash online. The lower the PSLE score, the better the student is said to have scored. Netizens were soon calling out the brand for discrimination.

The brand did offer an apology but there were already countless news on this picked up by other outlets. Even if the brand is supposedly known for creating unique customer experiences for its diner – if there’s one backlash, it is easy for people to lose trust and question the authenticity of those experiences. 

In today’s digital age, where information spreads rapidly and opinions are formed instantaneously, a single misstep can tarnish a brand’s reputation.

Consumers are increasingly vocal about their expectations from brands, especially in Singapore’s competitive market. They value transparency, accountability, and ethical conduct, and any deviation from these principles can lead to backlash and loss of trust.  

It gets bigger when social media amplifies the reach and impact of this negative publicity, the consequences of a PR crisis can escalate rapidly. 

So how does one manage crises like this and when should you hire a PR agency for crisis communications? 

Let us highlight the very basics of crisis management for businesses in Singapore. 

Firstly, what exactly is Public Relations Crisis Management?

It might seem easy if all you need is to put a statement out on social media and expect it to deliver but there’s more to it than this. In these times. effective crisis management requires careful planning, coordination, and execution across various fronts and it is not merely a one-off episode. 

You ought to be strategic with your communication and identify key stakeholders, establish your communication channels, draft messaging templates, and designate the right spokespersons who is media trained.

These crises can range from product recalls and accidents to scandals involving employees or executives, and they often unfold quickly in today’s super-connected world. 

In the context of Singapore, where businesses operate in a highly competitive and digitally-savvy environment, the need for effective crisis management strategies is more critical than ever. With social media platforms serving as amplifiers for both positive and negative publicity, companies must be prepared to respond swiftly and appropriately to protect their brand image and maintain customer trust.

What kind of damage control should you do in the event of a PR disaster?

  • Identifying the risks: Before a crisis occurs, you as the CEO of the company or communications manager should conduct thorough risk assessments to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities. All you need to do is analyse what type of risks does this carry:
    • does it involve product defects?
    • Was there an employee misconduct?
    • Did it happen as a result of a natural calamity beyond your control?
    • was it a cyberattack? 
  • Putting a team together: It is important to have your processes sorted out internally first. Having a dedicated team of crisis responders helps target any gray areas. With clear roles and responsibilities, from HR to Legal and Marketing, it is important to ensure that everyone is on the same page. 
  • Media monitoring and engagement: When a crisis unfolds, it is extremely important to continue monitoring the overall sentiment on what has been picked up in traditional and social media news channels. Organisations need to be proactive in answering to any media queries, correcting misinformation and being in control of the narrative. If you have social media listening tools like Hootsuite, it can quickly help to identify the right conversations and sentiments which can help you tailor your communication strategy and overall messaging. 

Crisis Communications: 5-step PR Crisis Response

When the storm hits, it is easy to be overwhelmed with information, but here’s what you should immediately do with our 5-step plan.

  1. Assess and Address: Understand the Scene

Don’t dive right into action without understanding what happened, what went wrong and how you can take your next steps from this. 

Once you have gathered all the relevant facts and information from all parties involved, assess the extent of the damage and figure out if you should hire a PR agency who has dealt with crisis communications. 

Every crisis is unique with its own set of circumstances and  it is important to also hire specialists crisis communication PR agencies in Singapore who can advise you strategically.

  1. Plan and Prepare: With Your Team in Tow

The very team that you had together should quickly get cracking on a response plan. The most important thing is to gather your team and brainstorm strategies on how to address the crisis. Get on a meeting, fast!

Assign roles and responsibilities while ensuring each team member knows exactly what their task is. When you’re prepared to handled this, your strategy will flow naturally from start to finish. 

  1. Communicate Clearly: Transparency’s the Name

When there is a crisis, you need to be comfortable with being 100% transparent and truthful. Don’t mince your words and work towards and honest approach when communicating. Use language like “we take concerns of this nature extremely seriously”.

The most important thing is to keep all your stakeholders involved informed about every step of the process, providing updates and addressing any concerns.

You would want to ensure there is no room for rumors that will jeopardise your communication approach for the organisation. 

  1. Engage and Resolve: Reach Out and Start Engaging

Being proactive is absolutely essential in a times of a crisis. Reach out to those affected by the crisis, from customers to partners or employees. Be empathetic in your approach with a genuine sense of urgency and care in your interactions. 

You can also look at examples of how past global brands have approached this issue. Empathy has long been the core ingredient in managing any PR crisis. Brands globally have always included basic crisis principles which is to tell the truth, tell it all and tell it quickly. 

  1. Reflect and Improve: Learn From the Experience

Managing crisis situations is always a delicate balancing act – there is only so much that communications agencies can do but what you need to do post-crisis is important.

Whether it is in putting together a post-crisis campaign where you can come back stronger, or understanding what worked well and could be improved upon, you definitely could use this experience to refine your brands experience. 

In Conclusion

A PR crisis strategy should be holistic and be able to see the bigger picture, not just the crisis at hand. Navigating through a crisis and preparing for it are two different things which should not come from your team if you don’t have experience with dealing with the media and other stakeholders.

Hiring a PR specialist agency could make or break your brands reputation in times of crisis. The sphere and influence of PR has grown to become essential in Singapore, where brands are just one crisis away from losing millennials or Gen Z’s trust due to the rise of instant information. 

Hence, your stakeholders, credibility and reputation, requires a thought out process and a team that understands social media and traditional media; this is the new norm facing PR in Singapore.

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