Do we need to talk with journalists about the crisis in business?

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Do we need to talk with journalists about the crisis in business?

Thursday, 19 July 2018

When a business faces a political, economic, or social crisis, the question always arises: “Should we talk about it out loud, or is it better to remain silent until it is over?” But as practice shows, everything secret becomes apparent, and then it is much harder to overcome the crisis. Let’s talk about the actions of PR specialists during the crisis with the founder and director of the agency of public communications Perfect PR, co-owner, head of IA Natalia Ulynets.

According to the publication on

– Natalia, how relevant is the topic of overcoming the crisis for PR specialists today?

NU: Most Ukrainian companies and large companies, as a rule, are not ready for the beginning of any crisis, primarily to participate in public conflicts and their resolution. Therefore, communication specialists are paying more attention to analyzing crisis cases and searching for new tools for resolving disputes.

– What do you mean by “crisis” as a communications specialist?

NU: Any adverse changes in external or internal processes in the company can be interpreted as a crisis because it requires additional communication and explanation to target audiences of what is happening. The company’s managers do not always feel that this process can go beyond the company’s walls, and “find itself” on the pages of publications. The company’s activities can be “overgrown” with gossip, speculation, opposition versions, interest journalists, and “erupt” in articles and reports.

– How can a publicist understand that a crisis has occurred? By what parameters to determine it?

NU: PR specialists should pay attention to several events to understand the nature and origin of the crisis and develop an appropriate algorithm:

  • monitor public and private reactions of the company’s target audiences. Do they change their thoughts, behavior, and decisions about the company or not? On the nature of their questions from them;
  • look at the results of daily media monitoring: negative tone of information about the company in the media is the main sign of a reputational crisis;
  • do the daily monitoring of social networks: negative statements about the company from public people, government officials, journalists, consumers, increased comments about the company, distribution – is also a sign of crisis. After all, information from social networks often serves as a source of information for the media and even forms unsubstantiated headlines.

– How should the management and PR people react if the crisis has already happened?

NU: Time is the best ally and the biggest enemy of the reputation crisis. Information campaigns have a very rapid development, so it sometimes takes hours and minutes for companies. Many managers do not understand this and are not always ready for public comments to journalists, meet with them, and even personally explain the situation to the public on social networks. Instead, it would help if you calmly went through a short phase of “what to do?”, “And what to say?”. Quickly develop theses of answers, arguments, refutations, and facts. Instead of worries, switch to the mode of active promotion of information from the company, active filling of the information field with yourself — the less communication from the company in the crisis — the more oppositional versions and assumptions. From practice, I will say that the media like to trust companies the least, and vice versa – looking for “hot” reasons from outside sources.

Personal contacts with journalists, availability of contact databases of editorial offices, developed a set of information messages for target groups – the first and most essential tools. Sometimes there are situations when the negative about the company is so widespread that there is a feeling that the company may not be heard. So I suggest that journalists respond to all inquiries, provoke these inquiries, and come out with the company’s position through specifically recognizable faces, providing information in their public and official releases. In a day or two after the “hot information” period, you need to start systematically promoting and filling in the information field yourself. Step by step, thesis by thesis, version by version – the task is to systematically encourage and restore reputation through tools such as interviews, blogs, analytics, engaging external speakers, forming a pool of social lawyers and experts for a public position, photo/video content, coverage of legal steps of protection, media events: press conferences, briefings, press tours, etc.

Different types of conflicts have different types of protection and reputation restoration. Still, the company’s openness, the quick reaction of PR specialists, well-established communication with journalists, and the development of its version remain classic steps to counteract any conflict.

– Thank you for the conversation.