Top tips for managing a PR crisis for construction companies

Does your construction company have a crisis management plan? Crisis planning is becoming increasingly important in our digital age, and should plot your response – or response procedure – to everything from a factory fire or flood, through to a major product failure.

If you haven’t already got a plan, the point at which your company creates a social media marketing campaign and policy, is also the point at which your crisis management plan MUST be implemented. Lack of response or a poorly considered response to a social media crisis can cause irreparable damage to your business communications, due to the speed and mass communication elements of the medium.

So, what defines a ‘crisis’?

There are three elements common to most business crises:

  • A magnitude of threat to the organization
  • The element of surprise
  • A short timeframe in which to take action

For these reasons, crisis management should be a proactive, rather than reactive activity. There is an element of attempting to plan for the unknown here, but having the procedures in place to deal with an unforeseen crisis will rapidly improve your ability to respond constructively.

If you’re about to embark on your first crisis management plan, follow these simple steps to get you started:

  1. List every possible situation that could cause you a crisis situation, that a journalist might run a news item on, or that could potentially damage your reputation within the industry
  2. Categorise each scenario, identifying the situations that are most likely to happen, and/or are most likely to impact on your business
  3. Develop a ‘holding statement’ for each of these situations, which will offer you with an immediate, appropriate response, and buy you time to further investigate the crisis and develop an appropriate communications response
  4. Agree on the mediums for broadcasting these holding statements (this should sit alongside your wider communications plan)
  5. Identify a hierarchy of spokespeople, who need to have agreed on the holding statements in advance, and who have sufficient media training or leverage within the company to be taken seriously in a time of crisis

Do’s and Don’ts in a crisis:

DO respond quickly: Sometimes a slow response can look at poor as no response, hence the importance of having a series of ‘holding statements’ pre prepared. This way you always look in control and can give reassurance to the industry that you have any given situation in hand

DO have a crisis management plan: It’s no good waiting for a crisis before you start planning – make your crisis management plan proactive, rather than reactive

DO have a nominated hierarchy of spokesmen: It’s best not to assume that your CEO or MD will always be available and best positioned to comment – if your nominated spokesperson is on holiday it would look daft to tweet from their account or release a statement to the media in their name, and could completely undermine your responses

DO have a staff message or action plan: Handling the internal perceptions of the crisis can be equally as important as your external comms plan. Imagine a situation where your employees get interviewed by a journalist as they leave about a product failure, or redundancies – would you trust them to respond appropriately? Manage the risk by preparing an internal communications plan to match your external responses

DON’T fabricate, or speculate: Because you will get found out!

DON’T respond to third party questions: Be clear about your part in the crisis response, and don’t answer questions on behalf of your suppliers or the emergency services, for example, as ultimately it makes you look responsible for their actions

DON’T accept more responsibility than is appropriate: There is often a desire to apologise on behalf of natural disasters or third party supplier problems, but accepting responsibility for these sorts of crises is unnecessary. Instead, focus on the positives of how you will make sure this doesn’t impact on your customers or product quality for example

DON’T say ‘no comment’ or ‘we will come back to you soon’: It just makes you look unprepared and out of control!

Do you have any crisis management tips to share? What have you learnt from dealing with previous crises? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, and how you’ve integrated your crisis management plan with your wider communications strategy.

About Stuart Dinnie

Stuart has worked in the world of digital marketing for over 15 years. With his measured and planned approach, he has delivered robust digital strategies for construction companies to achieve real business growth. He now heads up the team at Pauley Creative as Managing Director and is leading his team & clients towards digital marketing excellence. He’s worked with over 100 construction clients; helping them on their digital transformation journey, providing sustainable strategies that return year on year incremental growth, delivering award-winning websites and adding value from board level to marketing assistant.

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