These days, with news traveling at break-neck speed across digital networks, bad press can blow up on a global scale within days, or even hours! It’s more important than ever for communications professionals to understand how to deal with public relations crises, and protect their business or organization from reputational fallout.
Politicians, celebrities, food and drug companies, and high-profile corporations all have public relations personnel who specialize in preserving public image in the wake of a crisis. If you can keep calm under pressure and are a skilled, persuasive communicator, earning a Communications degree at an American college in Rome just might be your ideal academic path. And if you’re drawn to the high-stakes world of PR crisis management, here’s a sneak peak at what it takes to thrive in the business:
Strong Investigative Skills
The first step to managing a public relations crisis is investigating the root of the problem. The goal is to divert public attention away from that problem, and toward your artfully crafted solution – but before crises managers start developing strategies, they need a firm handle on what really went wrong. For example, when investigating a corporate PR crisis, you would talk to customer-facing employees first, like the social media marketing team, in order to learn more about how and when derailment occurred. You’ll need to analyze the “evidence” you’ve gather from several customer-facing sources in order to determine what steps to take next.
Now it’s time for you to determine the impact the crisis may have on key stakeholders. Is this a downward spiral Charlie Sheen can come back from? Will Bill Clinton’s popularity descend into oblivion if his much publicized indiscretion is ineffectively managed? In both of these infamous PR nightmares, strategic communications management played an integral role in helping prominent figures repair badly damaged personal brands.
If you choose to study abroad in Italy and pursue a communications internship, you may have the opportunity to see firsthand how public relations are managed in a multinational organization. When brands go bad in the corporate world, a destructive ripple effect can impact business in profound ways. In a worst case scenario, a company could lose its sponsors, see a dramatic drop in sales, and may even go bankrupt. In a best case scenario, performance returns to normal (and even increases) within a few months, as it did for Toyota after their 2012 automotive recall was managed expertly by a top-notch PR crisis team.
Social Media Monitoring
An important part of strategizing a response to a PR crisis is monitoring public response. Social media is an obvious place to start, as people routinely post, tweet, and converse about important events in real time. Social media monitoring tools such as Hootsuite and Social Mention can be used to record and analyze any reference to, or commentary on your PR situation.
Facing Your Public
In and of itself, the public statement is an important component of effective PR crisis management – but so is the medium in which the statement is issued. The PR team may choose to deliver the message through a corporate blog, across social media, as a news statement, or in a press release. Social media can encourage a discussion, whereas a blog post may offer a more controlled environment—it’s up to the PR expert to decide which route is best.
Since political figures often find themselves facing PR challenges, would you consider pursuing a minor in Communications while you study politics in Italy?