Skip to content
Customer experience

Your Public Relations Strategy: Three Best Practices to Manage Your Communication in a Crisis

By Joel Lee

A public relations crisis can cripple your business. And they’re not uncommon. Your company can come under fire for things employees have done, missteps in your advertising campaigns, and messaging that customers find offensive. Most often, the company is taken by complete surprise when it happens. If you want a few examples of this, just check out Forbes list of the Biggest PR Crises of 2017. There are a wide array of ways that your business is at risk.

A few decades ago, the only way the public became aware of a company misstep was if it was covered by a professional journalist. Today, any customer with a smartphone and social media account might break the story.

Another example of crisis management is the recent situation with Starbucks. It’s hard to determine how well their strategy will pay off in the end. But it’s very clear that they’re going above and beyond normal protocol – closing all of their locations for a day to have employees take racial bias training, offering a very clear apology, and firing the offending employee. So we can see that if a PR nightmare is handled correctly, consumer confidence can quickly be restored, with some customers respecting your company even more to fessing up to and addressing mistakes.

What we can learn from Starbucks is that they had a very clear public relations strategy in place to deal with crisis situations.

Three Best Practices for Crisis Communication

You never know when a crisis will happen and there’s no way to know what it will be. It’s hard to strategize for the unknown. But there are some clear plans you can put in place so that your response is well thought out. The last thing you want to do is make the situation worse by your communication immediately after.

Here are three best practices to prepare for the unknown crisis:

1. Put Your PR Team in Place.

The best way to navigate any crisis situation is by having a team you can trust. Your PR team should work with you to develop clear messaging immediately. They can counsel you on the best way to address any given situation. A good PR team takes the lead to show you examples of what’s worked for other companies, and where some failed to take charge of their situations. They will be intimately aware of your ideal market and customer base to help you craft the perfect strategy to mitigate damage.

2. Use All of Your Channels.

Crisis communication isn’t just a message you put on your website or an interview for the local news station. Once you’ve developed your strategy, you want to alert all of your customers to your message on the channels where they seek you out. For instance, if you use SMS marketing to reach your customers for sales, use it to further your conversation here, too. They choose channels they trust. And you can use texting to communicate instantly, which is so important in a crisis situation.

3. Commit to Your Messaging.

Whatever your strategy, it’s important that you commit to it completely. No matter what you choose to say, there will be some people who vehemently argue against it. Looking back at the Starbucks case; there are people who argued that there was no reason to close or offer training, believing that one bad employee doesn’t indicate a systemic racial bias issue. Through their twitter account, Starbucks has stuck firmly with their decision, clearly stating their belief that society needs more training in this area. They have continually reinforced their commitment to rectifying the situation in the future. If Starbucks had taken another route, trying to placate everyone, it’s likely that no one would believe their sincerity.

Planning Ahead for Disaster

Planning ahead for a crisis situation makes you more equipped to deal with any scenario. While you can’t map the messaging for every possible situation, you can clarify your corporate messaging and make sure your customers stay loyal. Properly handling something unforeseen with a good PR strategy can actually have a positive impact on the customer experience, as they will see your company as receptive to feedback. And with any PR crisis, it’s imperative to stay true to your corporate brand and committed to your customers.


Joel Lee is the SEO marketing specialist at Trumpia, which earned a reputation as the most complete SMS solution including user-friendly user interface and API for mobile engagement, Smart Targeting, advanced automation, enterprise, and cross-channel features for both mass texting and landline texting use cases.

  • Customer experience