When I worked in marketing for a large law firm I remember my husband’s response to all of the lawyer jokes and kidding. “Just try going into court without one.” The same could be said for a C.E.O. turned loose in a crisis storm without a good Public Relations consultant to provide guidance. Major crises are in the news daily. Behind those giant companies and institutions are the P.R. firms consulting with them.
Crisis communications is a specific niche within the public relations field. Ideally every company should have a crisis communications plan in place prior to the crisis occurring (it’s not just a matter of if one will occur, it is when!) I remember routinely rehearsing crises at one large defense company where I was employed as a communications specialist. Look at most of our schools today. Drilling and preparedness is routine for these students.
A good P.R. pro will weigh the pro’s and con’s of given media strategies and help to formulate an overall communications plan to deal with a crisis. This year I was called in to handle a client crisis involving a potential hostile takeover attempt. On very short notice I was working with the board chair, the chief executive, the general counsel and the media! A good P.R. Pro knows how to handle the top business executives and how to speak their language. I read with interest Stacy Blackman’s article in U.S. News and World Report, “Why B-Schools need to teach P.R.” While the language of business is key, it’s the well strategized and crafted communications message that forms the bridge from business to the receiver. It’s ultimately this ability to speak “bilingually” when needed that gives a P.R. pro a seat at the corporate table. In my client’s case the self-described “white knight” was turned away thanks to a sound communications strategy that took into account the client’s business and communications needs. It would behoove M.B.A.’s to learn public relations in school as eventually most CEO’s will end up working with a Public Relations professional. Does your company have a crisis communications plan for 2012? These days social media must be an integral part of any plan. Here are some excellent resources to get you thinking.