Professional consultants are not immune from the risk of brand crippling crisis
We’re professionals – so what corporate crisis would we possibly have to face? As specialists in B2B PR and communications, the number of times we’ve been asked this question doesn’t bear thinking about.
If you’re a manufacturer, a retailer, a builder, structural engineer or a hotelier, you get it. The risks lurk beneath operations every day. But for the likes of solicitors, accountants, architects or HR consultants, seeing potential hazards clearly enough to feel the need to plan for them is a much tougher ask.
However, failing to plan for the worst is a huge and foolish oversight because professional services businesses are still exposed to reputational risk – for example:
- The day you get a call to tell you that a partner has been arrested for having inappropriate material on his home computer or has been accused of a sexual assault.
- An allegation of gross negligence from a client.
- For the law firm – think about employment advice given to an employer that has had catastrophic personal consequences for the employee. The way you handled it is now hitting the media – social and traditional.
- A high-profile member of the team acting inappropriately at a war memorial.
- For an architect, an accusation of an attempt to bribe a planner.
- For an accountant or corporate financier in an MBO, an allegation that someone has been selling information to the other side.
You may think these things will never happen to you – but all these scenarios, or very similar, are ones we’ve had to help brands communicate through over the years.
Not thinking those potential hazards through and planning for them – even a little – makes dealing and communicating with an evolving issue or crisis so much harder.
When a crisis or issue breaks
When you are thrown into a crisis there are multiple plates to spin at once – operational issues, establishing facts to discover the truth, collecting and reviewing evidence, following HR practices, informing regulatory bodies – a mountain of calls and admin which you absolutely must get right.
We get it – that’s a lot to handle. But never overlook the need to communicate through the issue or crisis, or the steps that could be taken to head it off at the pass.
Get that wrong and risk horrific fallout that could even be the make or break of a business or partnership.
That’s when the clarity of consultancy comes into its own
As PR consultants and crisis management specialists, we can operate independently of the storm to provide a clear-eyed view informed by experience. We’re calm, independent and objective. Our focus is on communicating through the issue with you.
Firstly, we establish who is giving sign off on everything – it’s best to work at board level. Then we check the facts that we’re working with. We’ll challenge on these – it’s essential we know what we’re working with. If we don’t know the facts are accurate, we don’t use them.
Next comes assessment of the level of risk – and where it’s most likely to come from. How many Polymedia team members do we need and where? What resources might we need from you?
Then comes a review of audiences – who do you need to communicate with, and in what order of priority? Most businesses think media first, but there’s host of others depending on the scenario. Partners or directors, staff, clients, insurers, lawyers, the bank, influencers and other stakeholders…. It doesn’t mean we’d communicate with them all immediately – but it’s important that we assess the need for that communication and understand the objectives of each level of it.
Working with you at board level, we devise the objectives of the comms, the strategy, the tactics and messaging for the response – all tailored for each audience.
What information is important to each? For staff that would be very different than the messages say to the media or the bank. They’re all factually correct – just structured differently, tailored to address their concerns.
That response is led by us, working with you – we assess risks on a rolling basis and respond as the issue or crisis unfolds.
We work with you on presentation of the facts and the messaging surrounding them.
Then we move into drafting statements or emails – most importantly working with you on messaging, and risk, and coaching you to ensure you’re ready for any eventuality.
Few crises are static – the facts and the response change as they unfold. We must be sure we’re ready for them. Depending on the scenario, we might liaise with authorities such as police or ambulance to ensure we’re all working with correct facts. We might monitor media, print, online, broadcast or social, to see if anything new might be breaking. If media are involved, we would keep liaising with media even if we have nothing new to tell them to ensure they know we’re being fair, honest and transparent and understand their needs.
Your brand and its reputation matter to you. An issue or crisis that’s evolving or breaking is always scary. We can’t make the problem go away, but we can ensure your brand voice is heard, that you communicate professionally and that your facts sit alongside any others to mitigate any potential damage.
As the temperature cools, then comes the de-brief and perhaps strategic follow-up activity. It’s professional, the right thing to do – and the best approach for your brand.
If you’re reading this because you have a situation looming or live, then please call our office number – see our contact page. If it’s out of hours, there will be a message with 24/7 contact details.
If you’re reading because you recognise a gap in your operations, then the best thing to do is plan now – planning for an issue or crisis makes handling one so much easier. If you work with is, you’ll have a Polymedia director on 24/7 call and we’ll know your business, the risks it faces, its personalities, and who is best in front of the camera or media.