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Plan for a Crisis Before it Happens: Here’s How

Posted: Sep 25, 2017, By: Mandy Fernandez

How do you plan for a crisis? Waiting until you or your company is in the middle of one is not a good plan.

This is why pre-planning for a crisis and having a written communication plan in place before one occurs are critical steps according to Sonya Daniel, APR, deputy supervisor of elections for administration for the Escambia County Supervisor of Elections.

Daniel was the guest speaker at the FPRA Pensacola chapter meeting in September and she gave three important tips to public relations professionals and guests in the room.  When it comes to a company crisis, Daniel recommends a public relations professional must:

1. Determine the key response messages. Have three of them at the most and don't give away all information at one time either.
2. Designate a spokesperson. Have someone who will speak on behalf of the organization, both internally and externally.  
3. Have a response / action plan for the business or agency. These are the top three things that your company will do to stay ahead of the crisis.

That sounds simple, right? To test these components, Daniel gave meeting participants a real scenario to address how to approach and diffuse a PR crisis. Individuals worked together in groups to discuss how they’d handle and speak to the media about their given situation.

This hands-on approach was well received by the crowd. Each scenario was discussed openly and attendees offered further tips during the interactive discussion.

After the group exercise, Daniel handed out sample communication plans, a media checklist, crisis plan elements and a media guide. She also referenced several helpful books that she uses as reference guides in her role. They were:

"Public Relations Writing: Strategies & Structures" by Doug Newsom and Jim Hayes
"Jane’s Crisis Communication Handbook" by Louie Fernandez and Martin Merzer
"Winning with the News Media – A Self Defense Manual When You’re the Story" by Clarence Jones

Daniel’s final words at the meeting were, “If your company didn’t have a crisis this year, then review your crisis plan and make adjustments to it for next year.”

We thank Sonya Daniel, APR, who also happens to serve as our chapter’s vice president for accreditation and certification, for an informative, helpful session. Her real world examples and handouts are takeaways we can all use.

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Join us for next month’s meeting when we welcome guest speaker Dwaine Stevens, public affairs, media and community relations manager for Publix. Also, be sure to take a minute to renew your FPRA membership (or join for the first time). It’s an easy online renewal process. Please contact Sarah Whitfield, VP of membership/president elect, at [email protected] with any questions.