Crisis management is not the same as PR
Public relations and crisis communication are not the same. Search the phrase “public relations” online and on my first page of results are definitions of the term and advertisements from the PR firms near me with the best SEO – there is no mention of communication in a crisis and only passing reference to related ideas like reputation management. This isn’t surprising, because a public relations firm should have as its top priority the promotion and building of your products and ideas. And crises are kind of a bummer to think about.
Not only do the two fields have different – if often complimentary – goals, they also usually have different audiences to some degree. It is rare that investors or employees in your company will find out about a new product or service through a media campaign, but in a crisis, those constituencies may be among those with whom you need to communicate most. And often, but not always, those in the media who cover developments within your company are different than the reporters who cover a crisis your company is facing.
Prioritization of relationships
Most of the advice you will see on being a capable public relations professional very correctly mentions “relationships” among the top priorities. One of the primary differences between PR and crisis communication is the difference in the relationships the two must have.
There are certainly firms that focus upon both aspects of business communication, but do not confuse your public relations team or person – internal or external – with preparation for communication in a crisis unless they are demonstrably also focused upon crisis communication; preferably with a dedicated expert.
Preparing your own company
The best way to prepare your company for communication during a potential crisis is to develop a plan to identify all of the people who need to be communicated with and how you will accomplish that; particularly if normal communications channels are interrupted.
Consult your PR professional during the creation of the plan and/or take the plan to them upon completion so that they are on the same page and can even incorporate some of the plan’s goals into their normal course of action to bolster the reputation and image of your company.