By: Phyllis Ershowsky, APR, CPRC

From the time we take our first steps as PR assistants to the day we become experienced professionals, we are reminded about the importance of cultivating a thorough crisis communication plan. In most cases we file it away, secure in the fact that it’s there if we need it. For me, that was yesterday. The beauty of a well thought out crisis communication plan? It actually works.

Leaving out names to protect the innocent, no sooner had I completed a crisis plan for a new client than a crisis occurred: a key employee walked off the job without notice. She was the only full time person licensed to manage one of the major functions of this organization and without a replacement, the regulatory agencies warned they would shut down the business within the next two days. To complicate matters, this same employee called the media about the impending shut down and two TV stations got right on it. We had five hours to get control of the situation until the 6 p.m. news. What to do? Refer to our newly minted, trusty crisis plan, of course.

Within two hours, we appointed a spokesperson, drafted a statement for the media, coached the client, contacted the media with a response and set a time with the reporters for an update. The result? While the news stories ran as scheduled, the facts were presented fairly and the points we made in the statement were mentioned right up front. There was little drama and the impact was minimal.

Here were the lessons learned:
  1. By planning calmly and rationally in advance, we were prepared for the worst.
  2. We had an immediate plan to put into action – no time was wasted. 
  3. Because we were so calm and organized, the client was too – and that made a huge difference in the outcome.

I highly recommend preparing a thorough crisis communication plan for your client’s or organization’s peace of mind – and yours as well!

Phyllis Ershowsky, APR, CPRC and principal of PKE Marketing & PR Solutions, has more than 25 years experience developing creative strategies to help clients establish positive reputations and relationships with their key publics. She is also an adjunct professor at Florida Gulf Coast University and has served as our local FPRA chapter’s vice president of member relations for the past two years.