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Mastering skills for crisis communications: Is your brand ready?

by | Feb 27, 2024 | Public Relations

Crisis! To some it is a “dirty” word. Others recognize it as an inevitable contingent. In business and in life, crisis will happen. When they do, will you be ready? 

Good crisis communication skills are especially essential to public relations, regardless of industry. Below, we’ll consider the etiquette and best practices for crisis communication and what a skilled and rapid response can mean for your brand. 

The high stakes of crisis communication

There was a time when a single press release—often issued after the resolution of a matter—was relied on to address the public regarding a crisis. Today, expectations have shifted wildly. Organizations are expected to manage situations in real time, even while the details of events are still under review. They are also called upon to utilize multiple channels of communication, including social media, smartphone alerts, and traditional news media. 

While this real-time communication can be informative and even save lives (for example, in the event of a severe weather alert or an evacuation order), it also presents unique challenges. In the rush to provide information, organizations inadvertently release incorrect information. Failure to communicate quickly, on the other hand, can result in a proliferation of misinformation from outside sources. 

Skilled public relations professionals like you are needed to handle these potentially tense and emotionally charged situations. How can you be ready when a crisis strikes? Preparation is key, as we will discuss in the next section. 

Preparation: The first line of defense in crisis management

Why do elementary school students engage in regular fire drills? Why must you sit through a demonstration of emergency air masks every time you board a plane? The reason is that preparation prepares us to take action in a crisis. 

You can do the same with any type of crisis that your organization may face. First, conduct a risk assessment, outlining potential hazards and what could take place in their aftermath. These may include natural disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, landslides, and heat-related illnesses; human-caused hazards such as terrorist attacks or safety issues; or technological hazards such as cybersecurity breaches. 

Next, make a plan—a living document that can be shared with your team. If you create a crisis management plan and mentally rehearse the steps you will need to take, you will not freeze at the critical moment. Instead, you will slip naturally into the proper response.  

You can prepare your team in the same way. Educate them on the nature of hazards and preferred responses. Crisis simulation training can cement these responses while doubling as a team-building activity. For example, a video game called Cascadia 9.0 can help individuals learn how to respond to a cataclysmic earthquake. Preparedness drills, mentioned earlier, are also effective. The physical aspects of drills enhance recall. 

Leading this kind of crisis simulation activity and then evaluating it later with your team is important experience, so don’t forget to add this skill to your professional profile and resume. Solid experience in utilizing risk assessment and crisis simulation training signifies that you will be able to handle future crisis situations effectively. 

Key tips:

  • Risk assessment and crisis simulation training are key skills for PR professionals. 
  • Create documentation and plans with your team, which you can put into practice in drilled simulations that you might actually face in reality. These will vary depending on your business. 
  • Include your success in conducting team training and preparedness drills in your resume/LinkedIn work experience descriptions. If the disaster situation eventually took place, explain how the prior training contributed to the efficient response of all involved. 

Mastering the art of strategic response

As mentioned above, timing is critical during crisis communication. It’s been referred to as a “currency.” Quick, accurate communication—especially in the immediate aftermath of the crisis—can mitigate damage and build trust. Delay—even seemingly necessary delays—accomplishes the opposite. 

Be ready to release a statement acknowledging the crisis immediately. Provide updates as soon as new information is available. This also reflects transparency, another cornerstone of crisis communication. Honest and open communication helps dispel accusations of collusion and cover-ups. This, in turn, will help you retain effective narrative control—redirecting public opinions to follow an accurate narrative rather than allowing rumors to shape their views. 

Key tips:

  • In your work experience descriptions, briefly mention your involvement with communication strategy formulation. 
  • Showcase instances in which you were involved in message development and in handling the media. High-profile, newsworthy events that maintain a positive public opinion are especially effective. 
  • Highlight instances of real-time response by including links to the organization’s social media or press releases.  

Technological savvy: A must-have skill in modern crisis management

As already highlighted, technology has created an “always-on” society. Newscasts and social media feeds are available 24/7, and citizen journalists with cell phone cameras are always ready to post the latest developments. 

While this doubtless presents challenges, you can also use it to your benefit in crisis management. According to a survey in 2022, more than a third of adults in the U.S. list social media as their primary news resource; other sources suggest that the number might be double that. This means that if your organization presents prompt and accurate information on social media, it will reach many. 

Of course, you should not neglect to communicate through traditional media platforms. Some demographics, especially individuals over the age of 65, are more likely to rely on television news networks. Make sure your press releases reach local news studios, print newspapers, and online journals. 

Artificial intelligence is another technology poised to change the face of crisis management. AI systems are being used to analyze data that could better predict crises from weather events to riots. 

AI can also be utilized to communicate in a timely fashion. AI chatbots can enable organizations to respond to questions or requests almost instantaneously. Human responders can then follow up as needed. 

Work examples of these communication methods—and positive responses to them—into your resume. Experiences rich in technological and adaptive communication skills are crucial for modern PR professionals who will be expected to monitor, respond to, and engage the public during crises. 

Key tips:

  • Include social media proficiency and online reputation management as technical skills. These skills are vital to the modern PR professional. 
  • In your work experience descriptions, provide examples of how you used communication tools, AI technology, and platforms such as social media effectively during a crisis. 

Conclusion: The evolving role of PR professionals

Ample preparation, response strategies that include good timing, transparency, and narrative control, simulation of these strategies in action, and the effective use of technology are essential steps in the type of crisis communications that can preserve good brand reputation

This is no easy task, however: PR professionals must exhibit a wide range of skills on their resumes, from an understanding of social media trends to critical thinking and problem-solving under pressure. These skills reflect a readiness to manage crises effectively. 

The technologies used to communicate and public preferences regarding them will be a rapidly changing environment for decades to come. Continuous learning and adaptation, therefore, are valuable competencies in professional growth in public relations and crisis management. When you continue to learn and grow with the industry, you will be prepared to handle the unexpected. 

ResumeGiants
ResumeGiants is an international platform that is in close contact with an array of career experts, employment advisors, and recruiters. We are constantly gathering in-depth information about the job market, data about new and exciting emerging careers, the most important skills, and current trends in hiring in the hope of making your job application journey more enjoyable and straightforward.

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