The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Be Prepared: 5 Steps to Managing a PR Crisis

Expect the best, prepare for the worst. Sounds a little gloomy, but it’s actually a great strategy. If your nonprofit has a communications plan in hand when a PR crisis hits, you’ll be glad you followed that motto.

How well you emerge from a crisis hinges on how well you manage your message.

 

Handling a PR Crisis

 

 

These five steps are simple enough to implement whether you have just one person handling communications or an entire team.

 

1. Plan.  We often don’t believe we’ll find ourselves in a crisis situation and don’t plan in advance. Trust us, it can happen. Before trouble strikes, assemble your crisis team. These are people who work well together and can deliver your message calmly and consistently.

Brainstorm potential crisis scenarios. Talk about if and how your organization will respond in certain situations. Prepare templates of press releases, blog posts, Web pages, even tweets and status updates that you can quickly customize to fit any situation. Not having to start from scratch when everything’s going haywire helps your team stay calm and focused.

 

2. Communicate.  Get your social media monitoring in place so you can spot a potential situation before it gets out of control. If you start noticing spikes of negativity, pay attention and nip it in the bud. If the issue spirals, remember the goal of crisis communications is to minimize the news cycle. Get out ahead of the situation with your prepared materials.

Across all channels, deliver a consistent message. Whether it’s the evening news, local newspaper, your website or blog, people should hear consistent info about the facts of the issue, your response to it, what actions your taking, and what’s coming next. Be as transparent and honest as possible. The more up-front your message, the more credible your organization will appear.

Social media in particular provides your group an opportunity to respond quickly. Again, be consistent. Don’t be defensive or negative, stay positive and matter-of-fact, and avoid commentary or opinion.

 

3. Monitor.  Always know what’s going on in your market. This is another area where having monitoring channels in place makes life easier. These could include traditional clipping services as well as digital channels like social media. It helps to know what people are saying about your organization and whether it’s positive or negative.

 

4. Restore.  The worst is over, so it’s time to focus on restoring your good reputation within the community. Keep sending out positive news through your communications channels. Update those channels early and often—more frequently than in calmer times. Share press releases, testimonials, blog posts, and so on about the great work you’ve been doing and continue to do.

Whatever the format, optimize this flurry of positive online content for search engines. This will help restore your good reputation, but equally important, it will fix your SEO by pushing crisis-related results off the front page of a Web search about your organization. Out of sight, out of mind.

 

5. Learn.  Convene your crisis team and talk about what went well and what you’d do differently next time. Ask your key stakeholders for feedback. Include key members of your board and staff in this conversation.

Did you minimize the story or let it drag on? How could you have better managed the news cycle? Did you act quickly enough? Did you hold back too much info? Roll this feedback into a revised crisis plan.

 

A crisis doesn’t happen very often, but don’t press your luck. Create or revise your communications plan, and you’ll be ready for the next storm that blows your way.

Adapted from the Nonprofit 911 webinar “Crisis Communications for Nonprofits” with Susan Kearney, COO of Network for Good. Download the full webinar.

Raise More This Year with Smarter Fundraising Software

Learn More

Share your thoughts!

Join the conversation to offer your insight and experience. Have a question? We’d love to hear it!

About This Blog

Connie Poulos
Senior Associate, Copywriter

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

Read More

Want to raise more money and learn how to market your cause with bigger impact? You’re in the right place! The Nonprofit Marketing Blog is managed by our team of experts here at Network for Good. We’re here to bring you the best in nonprofit marketing trends, fundraising techniques, technology developments, and amazing nonprofit examples.

Have a question or topic you’d like to see us cover? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Want to be a better nonprofit marketer and fundraiser? Get alerts for free tips, key content, and other training opportunities.

Subscribe