Public Relations

PR Playbook: Navigating Bad News

By April 13, 2023 No Comments

The world is fraught with what feels like sad and stressful news on a daily basis. Americans in particular are dealing with continuous stories of gun violence, and as much as we wish it would, it doesn’t appear change will be coming anytime soon. As PR professionals, it is our responsibility to advise clients on communications strategies for all times and situations, even the dark ones. Below we put together a couple of suggestions to keep in mind as we navigate these difficult situations. 

Understand All Sides of Clients
If we are to advocate for our clients’ best interests during times of crisis, we must understand their branding and messaging, as well as their core values. Oftentimes companies will speak out in support of or against something happening in the world, not because it has a direct connection to the issue, but because what has happened goes against the company’s values or greater beliefs. It is helpful to have an idea of these values ahead of time so that you can be ready with a plan when news breaks. 

Read the Room
It is critical to understand the climate before moving forward with planned events or campaigns that could be considered even the slightest bit controversial. While an idea for something might have seemed brilliant at one point, news changes rapidly, so it’s important to make sure that the idea still makes sense and is appropriate at that moment in time. A social campaign that once seemed funny might suddenly be misconstrued as offensive and inappropriate. Take a pulse on the intended audience and media coverage to determine if moving forward with said plans is a good idea or not. 

Where Do You Fit In?
Depending on the nature of the news, it might make sense for a client to release a statement or post on social media, but it also might not make sense. It is important to consider if or how the news is relevant to the company and/or industry. As PR advisors, we must always have our clients’ best interests in mind — will it be beneficial, or could it potentially be detrimental to our clients if they get involved with this news? Lay all possibilities out on the table so that clients have a complete picture of what could happen. 

It is hard to know exactly what the right answer is during times of tragedy and unrest. Acting with the client’s best interest in mind is always the greatest way to ensure favorable outcomes. Operating with a bit of sensitivity and humanity, especially these days, is helpful too.