A Crisis is Coming—Now What?

There’s a crisis brewing. You know well in advance that it’s coming. As a PR pro, what do you do?

That’s the situation facing the Boy Scouts of America as records of confirmed or alleged child molesters within the U.S. organization are beginning to surface.

According the a Los Angeles Times review of 1,600 confidential files dating from 1970 to 1991, scouting officials frequently urged admitted offenders to quietly resign—and helped many cover their tracks.

The files are expected to be released within three to four weeks.

When an unexpected PR crisis occurs, there is little time for planning. In these cases, PR pros must attempt to diffuse the problem and move forward.

Knowing a crisis is on the way provides PR professionals with a huge advantage. Armed well in advance with knowledge of the impending crisis, the Boy Scouts have the luxury of time to strategize and execute a well thought-out response.

When you have time to prepare, use it well, says Roger Friedensen, president and CEO at Raleigh-Durham, N.C.-based Forge Communications. He offers the following four tips for communicators who know a crisis is on the way.

  • Get the facts straight. “You’re not in the fog of war,” says Friedensen. So ask and answer all ques­tions, line up experts and do research of similar crises.

  • Hone your messaging. You can sharpen your message, sub-messages and proof points, and think about the channels you’ll select to tell your side.

  • Coach spokes­people on specific ques­tions. “This is where you can hone in and ask questions you know will come initially,” says Friedensen.

  • Plan ahead for what is likely to happen. In an unexpected crisis, you’re moving so fast that you can only anticipate what will happen in an hour, if that. “Now you can project what’s likely to happen on day two, in a week or in a month,” he says.

Effective planning and time management can help PR pros make the best of a crisis, especially when they know it's coming. 

Follow Jamar Hudson: @jamarhudson