“Oh, so you write press releases and stuff?” is the standard response when you reveal that you work in PR. While that’s a fair enough description, let me elaborate on one of the most important elements of the ‘and stuff’ part of the job entails: crisis management!During my time managing the Bridgestone account at hps Jardine, I took on the role of Bridgestone Motorsport Press Officer during the final four years of their tenure as the Official Tyre Supplier to the MotoGP World Championship.
For those of you who follow motorsport casually, chances are you’ve only heard a tyre supplier being mentioned when problems arise. In the case of Bridgestone, such a crisis occured at the 2013 Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix where hellish conditions caused big problems with the tyres, resulting in a shortened race.
A solid crisis communication plan is extremely important when things go awry. However, just as crucial is your general PR methodology and keeping the lines of communication open; both internally with your team and externally with the media and other stakeholders. For my regular public relations activities, I’ve adopted a four “C’s” approach: Candid, Constant, Clear and Consistent. These four “C’s” serve me well on a day-to-day basis but were especially helpful at a time when the media, teams and event promoters were baying for the client’s blood!
Honesty is the best policy in all your communications and being candid is vital in building trust with stakeholders. It’s important to note that being honest doesn’t mean sharing everything, yet if there is something that can’t be communicated, be honest about that too. Resorting to diversionary tactics, half-truths or assumptions will come back and bite you!
Constant communication with your peers is an integral part of being a good press officer and in times of crisis, becomes infinitely more important. Make yourself available to the media, touch base with them frequently and they’ll be more likely to ask you for comment when a situation involving your client comes up. Keep your distance and they’re more likely to go off and file a story without getting your version of events!
A bit obvious, but communicating clearly is something which can elude us all in the PR world, particularly in times of emergency. When working for Bridgestone the subject matter was at times, very technical, so using layman’s terms, diagrams and proactively feeding out information I thought to be relevant to a given situation - rather than just fielding questions from journalists - worked extremely well. If the media know they’ll get a straight answer from you, they’re more likely to come back to you for further comment.
This is a biggie and is closely linked to the need for candour. Consistency is key in terms of what you both do and don't say. Ensure that if you’re asked the same question twice – even if it’s months apart - the answer stays the same. It’s a journalist’s job to record and cross-reference every skerrick of information and in times of crisis, any discrepancies will undermine the reputation you’ve worked so hard to build, not to mention your personal credibility. In this regard, make sure you stick to your tone of voice guidelines and key messages.
If you’re interested in finding out more about what we do here at HPS Jardine, take a look at our some of our work or sign up for our next PR Masterclass: