Part I: Why You Need A Crisis PR Agency
Let’s take a moment to delve deep into the dark crevices of “what if.” Stay with me here. Take a moment to let your mind wander to worst case scenarios that could potentially happen at your place of business. Perhaps a rainmaker embroiled in a #MeToo accusation? A high profile employee takes to Twitter to trash a client? An unhappy donor threatening to expose shady bookkeeping practices to the media? It’s uncomfortable, I know. But if you take the time to really think about all of the potential crisis lurking just below the surface I bet you can come up with quite a list.
Now, in each of these scenarios, imagine what your next steps might be. Who are you calling? What are you saying? What are you not saying? How do you respond on social media? What’s your plan of action?
If at this point you’re sweating slightly, you’re not alone. Most organization don’t have a formal crisis response plan, precisely because it’s uncomfortable to think about. It requires planning for something that will hopefully never happen. It takes time that is not billable and planning involves immersing yourself in a dark place.
But here’s another thought to consider. The moment a crisis hits is not the time to start calling around to PR firms asking about their services and pricing. It’s not the time to reach out to your sister’s best friend’s husband who you think is in PR to see if he can help. It’s too late.
The time to prepare is now.
Once you have an identified agency partner on call, you can proceed with the confidence of knowing that the crisis team is already up to speed on your company, its executives, and other relevant players and details. It’s not necessary to take time to get anyone up to speed because it’s already happened. In this scenario the agency can immediately get to work on responding to the situation at hand.
Different crisis agencies work in different ways, but it most cases, if you’ve already contracted with an agency, you will likely have a response plan developed that can immediately begin to be implemented. In addition, it’s likely that your executives have had some version of response training such as media interview training. At this point it’s just a matter of reviewing and refining messages based on the situation.
Companies who have taken the time to arrange for crisis counsel in advance of a situation tend to fair much better in a crisis situation than those who have not. If you’re ready to discuss crisis preparation services for your company, get in touch with us here.
Part II: How To Pick A Crisis PR Agency That’s Right For You
If you’re in the market for a crisis PR firm, here are a few tips to take into consideration when making your selection:
In crisis, comfort with the team is king. Your agency partner must be a group of folks that you trust and are completely comfortable with. These are the folks who you will be sharing scenarios you hope never see the light of day, so you must feel confident they can manage and contain the situation, should it ever arise.
Meet the team members. Many times senior executives or dedicated new business development team members will sell the business and then step out of the picture once the deal is closed. During the selection process, make sure you meet the actual team members who will be assigned to your account. Find out how involved senior leadership will be and who your day-to-day contact is.
Ask about their experience. Find out what clients they’ve worked with who are in similar industries or have had similar situations. Ask how the situations were resolved and what the outcomes were. Ask how long the relationship with the clients lasted, and if it ended, why.
Understand how they bill. Crisis agencies generally bill in one of three ways: by the hour, on a monthly retainer basis (whether you use their services that month or not), or with one flat fee that covers a certain amount of hours. Decide what you’re comfortable with and ensure the agency is as well.
Be clear on the terms of service up front. Be sure you fully understand what the agency’s scope of work is before signing the contract. If you sign a crisis-only contract and another PR-related item pops up, is it covered? If your crisis takes you over the allotted amount of hours, how does billing change? Make sure you understand the full scope.
Hiring the right crisis PR agency can be a challenge, but successful outcomes are based on thoughtful preparation. Being as prepared as possible in the agency identification phase will set your company up for success in the long run. If you’re ready to discuss crisis preparation services for your company, get in touch with us here.
Note: PPRA is composed of many distinct organizations and individuals, each with different perspectives and specializations in diverse areas of public relations. Many of these members’ websites feature blogs with valuable insights and advice, and we would like to make this content available to you. Periodically, we will repost content from member blogs. If you would like to see your company’s blog considered, email Stephen Krasowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.