What Is Crisis Management In Public Relations?

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People often ask, what is crisis management in public relations? And that’s because non-PR practitioners are totally clueless about what public relations is all about. To begin with, PR is basically all about maintaining good rapport with a target community. In its simplest incarnation, PR can apply to any given situation.

To illustrate, a daughter of a family needs to establish good PR with the rest of the members of humanity’s primary social institution. She must maintain a good image for the family so when the time comes to ask for her monthly allowance or a certain favor, granting of the daughter’s wishes will not be like pulling teeth. On a much bigger scope, a pharmaceutical company tries its brand of public relations when it launches a campaign to win the hearts of its many publics with the slogan of a big heart saying, “We Care.”

This public relations gambit is perfect, say, for a drug company that sells medications for treating heart disease, hypertension, and other heart-related ailments. The strategy is a clever way to carve a strong image of caring in the hearts and minds of drug patrons, the community where the pharma firm conducts business, the government, the company’s stockholders, etc.

The list goes on and on. Generally, the bigger the business is, the bigger that corporation’s public is. In this equation, each piece of the pie represents a public that needs to be targeted with a lasting message for imaging success. The usual approach by public relations practitioners is to clearly identify what these publics exactly are in terms of demographics, buying power, culture, education, among many other factors.

A public relations outfit is said to be making a big mistake when it tries to implement a PR strategy characterized by a one-size, fits all policy. By far, such approach is the single biggest predictor of a crisis management in the making. When left unchecked, this can result in a nightmare of such magnitude that the firm in question may never fully recover from again.

History is replete with examples of PR campaigns gone bad. The fall of Big Tobacco, Erin Brockovich’s personal crusade against the contamination of drinking water in America, and Hillary Clinton losing the most recent American presidential election. These are dramatic examples of public relations gaffes that shook the world and turned the major players’ worlds upside down. In each case, these players tried to counteract the side effects of bad PR by going in crisis management mode.

Unfortunately, recovery has proven extremely hard to attain for the case studies in question. This demonstrates how important a good public image is. It also underscores the critical role that crisis management plays in any PR strategy. But then again, there is nothing like a PR crisis to galvanize members of an organization together.

Hillary Clinton is an excellent case in point. By now, Clinton had lost two presidential elections, one against Barrack Obama. The other one is, of course, her recent loss to President Donald Trump. If ever she plans on running again in the future, her public relations agent should already be mounting a campaign by now.

After all, overnight or fly-by-night PR campaigns rarely take off the ground or gather steam. Crisis management takes years to grow, although short-term gains have been known to occur at times. Still, no one should underestimate time-sensitive crisis management forays.

President Trump’s campaign victory makes a great example of how crisis PR can defy if not overturn public opinion polls. Days before November 8, 2016, the president’s election team could clearly read the handwriting on the wall. It said in no uncertain terms that getting enough electoral votes was going to be quite a challenge for the team, and yet, how the tables, turned.

Almost overnight, Trump appeared to rise like a phoenix, as if oblivious to recent scandals that rocked the entrepreneur and reality star’s public image. Is it a stroke of luck that Clinton’s early electoral college advantage would take the backstage as election day drew near?

Such pivotal point in the American elections poignantly answers the more relevant question, what is crisis management in public relations? And the answer is certainly not pretty for Clinton and the rest of her team. Clinton campaigned as if she had already won. On the other hand, President Trump campaigned in order to win.

Trumpian victory is a victory for crisis management. It illustrates in no uncertain terms that with hard work and the never-say-die spirit, the electoral public could still be won in better-late-than-never terms. As a result, existing textbooks on the public relations craft may need some rewriting.

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