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PR Experts Share Crisis Communication Strategies for Companies

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PR Experts Share Crisis Communication Strategies For Companies

In the unpredictable world of business, crises are part and parcel of a company. However, when unexpected crises creep in and threaten a company's reputation, it becomes important to respond effectively.

So, how can companies handle these challenges? What crisis communication strategies are necessary for maintaining brand integrity during tough times? StartupTalky asked PR agency founders for their insights on managing crises and preserving reputation.

Join us as we learn how companies can protect their brand in times of reputation-threatening crises.

Ritika Garg, founder & CEO, AvancePR
Kishor Barua, Director, Pitchfork Partners Strategic Consulting
Sonali Sokhal, Founder, Intelliquo
Rohini Saldanha, Founder, The PR Stop
Ashutosh Srivastava, Founder, Point One Communications
Caleb David, Founder CEO, Perez Consulting
Shutapa Paul, Founder, Dharma Media Consultants
Sowmya Iyer, Founder & CEO, Clarity Communication
Kritika Lalchandani, Founder, Apostrophe Communications
Shiva Bhavani, Founder & CEO, Wing Communications
Shailesh K. Nevatia, Founder, Grandeavour Communication
Sonalika Pawar, CEO, Bold and Beyond
Vivek Pradeep Rana, Managing Partner, Gnothi Seauton

Ritika Garg, founder & CEO, AvancePR

Ritika Garg, founder & CEO, AvancePR

Crisis communication is critical for companies to effectively navigate challenges and safeguard their reputation. Here's how organizations can manage crises effectively:

  • Preparation: Before any crisis, it's crucial to have a comprehensive crisis communication plan. This should include identifying potential crises, preparing response strategies, and training the crisis management team.
  • Immediate Response: When a crisis hits, prompt and transparent communication is essential. The initial response should acknowledge the issue and convey empathy and commitment to resolving the situation.
  • Consistent Updates: As the situation unfolds, regular updates are necessary to keep all stakeholders informed. Consistency in messaging reassures the public and employees that the company is in control and taking responsible actions.
  • Post-Crisis Review: After the crisis, conducting a thorough review of the incident and the company’s response to it is imperative. This helps in learning from the experience, making necessary adjustments to the crisis management plan, and restoring any damage to the company's image.

Kishor Barua, Director, Pitchfork Partners Strategic Consulting

Kishor Barua, Director, Pitchfork Partners Strategic Consulting

Crisis communication has evolved in the age of social media. Earlier, companies could get away with issuing a carefully drafted statement at a later date; now, the audience demands that organisations act instantly. The way to respond to crises nowadays is to share maximum information with minimum delay. Don’t allow any gaps that might get filled by rumors, as this will do irreparable damage to the brand. Bud Light faced a crisis last year, and according to their latest financial results, the brand has not yet recovered from the impact.

Crisis navigation has become more of a preparation game than an anticipation one. Continuously learn from others mistakes and be ready, because most crises come uninformed.

Also, it is important to make sure that your decisions during the time of a crisis reflect what your brand value is in the minds of the public. Your goal is to preserve that, so do not deviate. During peak COVID, investor Warren Buffet gave American Express CEO Stephen Squeri the valuable advice, “Protect two things: your customers and your brand.”

Sonali Sokhal, Founder, Intelliquo

Sonali Sokhal, Founder, Intelliquo

The best answer to handling a crisis is acknowledging it and staying humble. We live in times when public accountability is very high, thanks to the interface of social media. Unchecked, or unaddressed, any untoward incident can snowball into a crisis, which goes beyond the media, into the sphere of public judgement.

Ideally in such cases, there should be stringent checks for tonality and share of voice across social and digital platforms. Handling incidents with empathy and transparency will go a long way for all companies to be able to shape public opinion.

In such cases, there must always be two kinds of statements ready for companies to mitigate a crisis:

  • A public statement for social and digital platforms that addresses the human element of the crisis and showcases a genuine commitment to resolve the situation.
  • A more technical and in-depth statement for the media which might want to do reportage on the situation.

Rohini Saldanha, Founder, The PR Stop

Rohini Saldanha, Founder, The PR Stop

Today’s brands need to be nimble and responsive to opportunity, designed for change to thrive, and future-focused, forward-facing. But all this usually comes with a certain degree of risk and challenges. Honestly, there is no rule book when it comes to battling a PR crisis. Every problem is different, thus requiring a different approach to resolving it. People usually ‘panic’ in a crisis. They either want to act swiftly or not act at all. The response you’ll find is opposite ends of the spectrum.

However, the PR practitioner knows the one that they have - Control. Control over the message – on what they plan to issue, who they plan to share it with, when they want to issue it, and how they plan to issue it. Sometimes, it could mean an off-record conversation with the journalist or a holding statement that gets shared, or disseminating a press release that dispels rumours.

They can deploy a range of tactics to get the right media attention at the right time. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is this – consumers honour and respect transparency and authenticity. Granted that we live in a world that proliferates hate, where the consumer is in the driver’s seat and calls the shots.

Most brands quiver so much that they are ready to bend backward and cancel themselves in a quest to avoid the backlash, the negative publicity, and the trolls. Add influencers to the mix and your problem gets compounded. However, it is during such times that brands should hold steadfast to their convictions, look to their guiding light, their raison-d’etre, and hold on to their core truth.

Vulnerability equals authenticity equals relatability which is what consumers value much more than force-fitted social messages or purpose statements. I think we can unequivocally agree that honesty is the best policy, and it rings true even more when it comes to a crisis.

Brands and leaders have a certain responsibility towards consumers, employees, and stakeholders, and thus they need to communicate in an honest, relevant, and succinct manner clarifying the facts, taking responsibility, and apologising for when they go wrong. They need to know how to best present themselves and not project an idealized version of the truth.

Ashutosh Srivastava, Founder, Point One Communications

Ashutosh Srivastava, Founder, Point One Communications

Crisis communication isn’t just about the present—it’s also about protecting the future by preserving reputation and building resilience even when facing adversity.

In the field of crisis communication, proactive planning, and timely and honest action are crucial for businesses. PR Companies should know how important it is to handle challenges with integrity, empathy, and a well-laid-out strategy.

Whether big or small, all PR agencies should adopt a certain approach in specializing and developing targeted strategies for dealing with crises. This will put emphasis on openness, responsibility, and sympathy so as not to undermine confidence or credibility in unsteady situations.

In addition, being proactive implies more than taking reactive actions such as risk assessment in an in-depth manner; scenario plans,well-laid-out and media training among other measures needed by clients to gain confidence and acquire skills required in managing crises efficiently.


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Caleb David, Founder CEO, Perez Consulting

Caleb David, Founder CEO, Perez Consulting

Crisis communication for companies is challenging and often presents unexpected hurdles. However, navigating these challenges effectively involves a three-fold strategy: facing the crisis head-on with fact-checking, formulating an immediate response, and maintaining open communication channels. The more a company delays or hides information, the worse the situation can become, leading to greater damage to its brand and reputation.

In today's fast-paced business landscape, effective crisis management is essential for organizations to navigate unexpected challenges and ensure continuity. Proactive planning, strong leadership, effective communication, collaborative decision-making, adaptability, and learning from crises are key principles that guide successful crisis management strategies. By adhering to these principles and implementing proactive measures, organizations can minimize the impact of crises, maintain trust with stakeholders, and emerge stronger from adversity.

Shutapa Paul, Founder, Dharma Media Consultants

Shutapa Paul, Founder, Dharma Media Consultants

The ideal scenario would be not to have a crisis situation. We see from experience that foresight and planning ahead can avert future crises. However, even the most well-managed companies and communications teams have reputation crises that can arise from a product recall, a data breach, or a social media misstep, which can quickly damage a brand’s reputation. If you find yourself putting out fires, here’s what to do –

  • Speed: In today’s age of instant information, a slow response is NOT recommended. Silence on critical matters can exacerbate the problem and can create an altogether new crisis. Bumble’s swift handling of its anti-celibacy campaign was well thought out. A single tweet holds the power to destroy reputation; hence, a crisis response should always be fast.
  • ‘The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war’: A well-defined crisis plan should be ready and on standby. One should always have multiple fail-safes in place and trustworthy media relationships to fall back upon. Regularly revisit and update the plan to ensure its effectiveness.
  • Trust, clear messaging, and a controlled narrative: A proactive response can help control the flow of information, minimising negative media coverage and public perception. A standard holding statement, which is vetted by the legal team, should be prepared and kept ready.
  • Holding the fort on internal and external communication is key: One should have a clear channel of messaging, a designated spokesperson and team, and a clear outline of the company’s messaging ready and shared with all employees.
  • Transparency: Be honest, transparent, and clear in your communication. Acknowledge the issue, explain what's being done to address it, and provide regular updates, even if there isn't a complete resolution yet. Most importantly, apologise, if the situation demands it and prevent a crisis from snowballing.

Sowmya Iyer, Founder & CEO, Clarity Communication

Sowmya Iyer, Founder & CEO, Clarity Communication

Crisis communication is a critical aspect of PR management, especially during challenging times when a company's reputation is at stake. The importance of transparency, authenticity, and proactive communication in mitigating crises effectively.

Establishing clear communication channels, promptly addressing concerns, and taking responsibility for mistakes are essential steps in preserving reputation and rebuilding trust. Developing a crisis communication plan, training key personnel, and monitoring online conversations can help companies navigate crises with resilience and integrity.

Kritika Lalchandani, Founder, Apostrophe Communications

Kritika Lalchandani, Founder, Apostrophe Communications

In the realm of crisis communication, I’ve steered Apostrophe Communications with a belief that transparency and empathy are paramount. Our approach has been to face adversity with a clear vision and a steady hand, which has proven to considerably reduce the impact of negative publicity. This isn’t just about mitigating risks; it’s about nurturing trust.

When a crisis unfolds, we don’t just manage the narrative; we strive to uphold the integrity of the brand and reassure stakeholders. It’s a delicate balance, one that requires both swift action and thoughtful communication.

Our success in this area is not merely measured by the absence of negativity but by the strength of the relationships we fortify during these challenging times. It’s about turning a moment of vulnerability into an opportunity for reaffirmation and growth.

Shiva Bhavani, Founder & CEO, Wing Communications

Shiva Bhavani, Founder & CEO, Wing Communications

Crisis communication is a critical aspect of managing challenges and preserving the reputation of companies facing unexpected events or negative publicity. During a crisis, transparency, timeliness, and empathy are key principles to uphold. Companies should have a well-prepared crisis communication plan in place, outlining roles, responsibilities, and communication channels to ensure a coordinated and effective response.

In navigating challenges, it is essential for companies to acknowledge the issue, take responsibility where necessary, and communicate openly with stakeholders, including employees, customers, investors, and the media. Providing regular updates, addressing concerns promptly, and showing genuine concern for those affected can help mitigate the impact of the crisis and maintain trust in the brand.

Preserving reputation during a crisis requires a strategic approach that focuses on maintaining credibility, demonstrating integrity, and showing a commitment to resolving the situation. By being proactive, honest, and empathetic in their communication efforts, companies can not only navigate the challenges effectively but also emerge from the crisis with their reputation intact or even strengthened through a well-managed response.

Shailesh K. Nevatia, Founder, Grandeavour Communication

Shailesh K. Nevatia, Founder, Grandeavour Communication

During times of crisis, companies must respond swiftly, transparently, and empathetically to protect their reputation and maintain public trust. Effective crisis communication involves acknowledging the issue, providing regular updates, taking responsibility, and outlining clear steps for resolution. There is no point in denying the situation or running away from the responsibility.

Companies should have a well-defined crisis communication plan in place, designate a trained spokesperson to handle media inquiries, and closely monitor media and social channels for feedback and sentiment. By addressing challenges promptly and effectively, companies can mitigate potential damage to their brand and preserve their hard-earned reputation, even in the face of adversity.

The real test of a PR strategy comes during times of crisis. A good PR strategy can not only help mitigate the ill effects of the crisis but also restore faith among the customers and society.

Sonalika Pawar, CEO, Bold and Beyond

Sonalika Pawar, CEO, Bold and Beyond

In navigating crises and safeguarding reputations, proactive and transparent communication is paramount. As a seasoned PR professional, I emphasize the importance of promptly addressing any crisis that arises. Delaying communication only exacerbates the situation, potentially causing irreparable harm to the brand's image.

When a crisis occurs, it's crucial to gather all pertinent information swiftly and disseminate it to stakeholders. Keeping people informed demonstrates accountability and reassures them that steps are being taken to resolve the issue. Moreover, if the company bears responsibility for the crisis, acknowledging fault is key. Silence or evasion only erodes trust further, whereas owning up to mistakes fosters credibility and paves the way for effective damage control.

Clear and concise communication is the linchpin of crisis management. It ensures that stakeholders are well-informed, minimizes speculation, and helps mitigate the fallout. By promptly addressing the crisis, accepting responsibility, and taking decisive action, companies can protect their reputation and emerge from adversity with their integrity intact.

Vivek Pradeep Rana, Managing Partner, Gnothi Seauton

Vivek Pradeep Rana, Managing Partner, Gnothi Seauton

Crisis communication is about leadership as much as it is about information. Effective communication involves clarity, responsibility, and a forward-looking stance—transforming potential disasters into demonstrations of resilience and integrity. Addressing challenges with transparency and accountability is crucial, ensuring that every message reinforces your company's values and commitment to stakeholders. It is not merely about relaying information but embodying clarity, responsibility, and a forward-looking perspective. By embracing these principles, organizations can transform potential disasters into opportunities to showcase their unwavering integrity and commitment to transparency.

Transparency and Accountability are the cornerstones. Every message should reflect your company's values and commitment to stakeholders. Openness mitigates risks and strengthens relationships. Clear, responsible communication reassures stakeholders.


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PR Experts Share Crisis Communication Strategies for Companies

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