Having the ability to manage, control and recover from a crisis determines ones’ capability to be a great Public Relations professional. But observing and acknowledging a risk before it becomes an issue is crucial in order to reduce the damage it can instigate on the operations and reputation of the brand.
Risk management scholars created The Fundamental Steps of Risk Management, which describes the 4 stages that should be taken in order to apprehend a risk:
- Risk Identification
- Risk Impact Assessment
- Risk Prioritization Analysis
- Risk Mitigation Planning Implementation, and Progress Monitoring
This model relates to issue management in PR which is all about identifying and analysing risks, developing strategies and evaluating results. Simply put, it’s the process that needs to take place before the crisis arousal. Additionally, studies have discussed the concept of prevention as being a crucial step in issue management.
In order to prevent a crisis from happening, professionals have to analyse and identify all potential damaging factors that function around areas the company activates in.
Generally, any matters that becomes public can be considered a crisis and any internal concerns become mediatized when stakeholders reach the bottom line of disappointment in the company. Therefore, the first advice of how to identify a risk before it becomes a crisis is to:
- Listen and act on stakeholder’s opinions
Whether it is employees, shareholders, contractors, clients or the community, their opinion has to be valued and considered in the decision-making process of the relevant departments, in order to prevent disagreements and disputes that can be made public.
The easiest, low-cost method that can help this process is asking for honest feedback after collaboration. Additionally, Trustpilot is a great, reliable platform that allows stakeholders to provide reviews and offers brands the opportunity to observe their status in conjunction with external associates.
When it comes to employees, surveys and employee review meetings can be conducted regularly to understand whether there are any internal matters that need to be addressed.
Of course, listening without taking any action does not produce positive results. On the opposite, it can arouse stakeholders’ indignation, develop skepticism and thus, negative impressions. But to clarify and settle any issues, the brand has to offer honesty and transparency, which is second suggestion of this article.
- Provide transparency
The communications team of a company should have clear guidelines on how much information they can share and to whom. However, when it comes to crisis or issues, stakeholders are expecting to be kept fully informed at all times of strategies and steps the company is conducting in order to negotiate a settlement.
To keep a professional level of transparency, companies have to determine whether the information provided is relevant to the specific stakeholders they are addressing it to in order avoid creating auxiliary misunderstandings. Additionally, it is crucial to be attentive to boundaries and private information which should not be disclosed if it is not comfortable for certain individuals or for the business.
When it comes to internal issues, ensuring employees are aware of the communications channels and those are open for them to reach is of high significance. Whether an internal communications department or HR, those have to be trained to display an objective and open character when it comes to listening to employees’ requests and complaints. The division responsible should prepare a strategy, provide follow-up feedback and share results to employees’ enquiries.
In the business to client relation, specifically looking at service providers but also relevant to product sellers, companies should share information as often as possible. They should be specific on the steps they are taking to ensure client satisfaction and to identify any objections and disapprovals early in the process. However, brands have the responsibility to also provide clear instructions for the clients in associations with needs and facilities they require to successfully complete the brief presented by clients.
- Keep up with industry news
Crisis can also be triggered by external factors the company has no influence in. These are often specific to the industry in which the business operates, but can refer to environmental crisis, regulators, regional and national laws or industry trends and innovations to name a few.
The steps that need to be conducted to reduce the risk of generating negative consequences related to external factors is to subscribe to industry newsletters, distribute relevant industry news within the company, and ensure all employees are acknowledging their importance.
Nevertheless, incorporating trends in the brands’ operations is essential to guarantee that the brand is innovative and ahead of its competition. Clients are always on the look for companies that are able to exceed expectations by providing new approaches.
To conclude with, identifying and evaluating the potential damage that a risk can impose on a brand’s reputation is critical in the operations of Public Relations professionals, whether it is agencies or in house departments. It can minimise the impact of a possible crisis and help the development of superior strategies to support building back the prestige of a company, but it can also positively influence the connection between the company and its stakeholders.