PR Fish Bowl

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Tuesday Tips: Supporting Senior Staff in a PR Crisis

by guest blogger Kerry Healy

From the film “Broadcast News” to the current “Newsroom” on HBO, we’ve seen dramatic depictions of chaotic workplaces coping with crises. PR agencies often deal with the dreaded client “crisis situation” and just like in those fictional examples, when it happens, it’s all hands on deck. An office intern can truly shine in such a situation by following a few simple rules.

Never assume it won’t become part of your job. “Oh, I’m an intern. I won’t be on the crisis team.” Wrong. Interns can be just as helpful as any other team member. Although your agency should have a plan for client emergencies, you can help by reviewing client documents and email threads to help search for potentially damaging language. Interns should also know proper communications protocol, as we might be on the receiving end of customer email.

Stay on top of media monitoring! As an intern, I am tasked with daily media monitoring, meaning that I may be the first person to see a serious situation in the news. I found I could be helpful by reporting to the client team the first signs of negative press, and in general, knowing which articles to flag for my supervisor. Additionally, monitoring during crisis situations can help a client to get ahead of the story by scoping out key media to supply with facts and statements the outlet may have not picked up.

Never underestimate the power of social media. It’s a good idea to take extra time to look for comments and mentions about a potential crisis situation in posts. Social media is a faster way to obtain information compared to a traditional search, so we can flag comments and suggest responses that contain up-to-the-minute, accurate facts.

Don’t be a loose cannon. It’s human nature to want to discuss what you do at work but in times of crisis, it is critical to keep your mouth shut and avoid texting, posting or emailing about the situation. At the same time, you should even discuss in-office communication to determine whether the crisis warrants a “cone of silence” with co-workers on other teams (safe to assume it might!)

How have you been helpful during a crisis?

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