By Chris Gilmour

Don’t cower in a corner: How to come out fighting in a PR crisis

When trouble rears its ugly head, many businesses are too quick to apologise – as if their only crisis management tactic is to cower in a corner and wait for the threat to go away.

Sometimes it’s actually better to come out fighting, particularly when corporate reputation is at stake.

That old adage “the customer is always right” no longer holds true in this age of social media.

Some customers can be mistaken, others have an axe to grind, or they may have listened to online gossip which can end up like a game of Chinese Whispers.

Reputation management is all about knowing when to hold up your hands and say sorry – and when to hit back with your side of the story.

The logical first step in any crisis response is to ask “Is it true?”

Yes, a brand needs to take responsibility for anything it has done to cause a crisis.

But if there happens to be misinformation - or even if it comes down to a matter of opinion - you have every right to have your say.

Effective crisis communication will always get the message across in a clear and professional way, often restoring corporate reputation in the eyes of the public, or at the very least dampening the flames which threaten to engulf it.

Just follow these simple steps to make sure that crisis management planning comes into play.

Stop and think: Your instinct to come out fighting will kick in immediately, but an ill-timed punch could do more harm than good. Assess the crisis, where you can launch a defence, any “facts” which you can prove are blatantly untrue

Check the online pulse: Use social media to monitor opinion on the issue. What are customers saying about your corporate reputation? Which aspect of the crisis do they find particularly distasteful – and can you defend yourself on that?

Draft a response: Make your answer professional and address the issues at hand – but don’t resort to personal attacks, even if that is what started your crisis. Blows below the belt will only reflect badly on you

Consult the professionals: You may think you have a watertight counter-argument, but it’s always advisable to get a second opinion. Consulting with a company which offers crisis management services is the best way forward

Choose your channels: Get your response out as quickly and effectively as you can, and don’t be drawn into any further battles. If you have a crisis management team, refer any requests for comments or interviews to them, and only speak further if you feel it will enhance your message.


Do you need assistance when it comes to crisis management planning or crisis communications? Call us on 0800 612 9890.