The friends and relationships needed during a PR crisis often are far different from the partnerships you focus on when operating at normal times.
Often, the individuals and institutions that are best positioned to provide support when you have problems are quite different from those you and your company engage with on a day-to-day basis
They may even be those that are more critical than your traditional partners. Sometimes they are adversarial voices. Regardless, it’s important to build alliances with them ahead of time.
The problem is most companies not only fail to build those bridges, but they also do not even know who these entities are or where to start.
One place to begin: assess who and what are the most influential people and groups on those issues where you are most vulnerable. Here is the key: don’t just look at those that are most well-established. Instead, consider the agitators and entities, experts who are willing to be more outspoken.
You want to have relationships with those who can be most impactful in the early stages of a crisis. In many cases, we know larger organizations can be slow and more reluctant to engage, especially with a company that has come under criticism.
Look at Smaller Groups
On the other hand, smaller groups may be more open to a partnership. Consider engaging with them genuinely and learning about their work.
And as noted above, reach out far ahead of when such an alliance is needed.
Creation Forges Bonds
Building something brand-new together is a big part of what can make for a strong, successful relationship. Develop an initiative that helps to elevate and enhance the profile of a partner, potentially expanding it to new audiences. Examples can range from public education campaigns to fellowships that support emerging leaders in the space. Ultimately, your goal should be creating trust and ties that are more than superficial.
It’s about more than just a useful resource for help during a PR crisis. The process of pursuing those partnerships also is likely to provide you with valuable insight and information that may well allow you to avoid getting into hot water in the first place.
It will not be a fast or easy process, but it can be valuable. So, it’s well worth spending some time during the coming weeks drawing up a list of those you might need in a pinch.
Brett Bruen teaches crisis at Georgetown University and served as President Obama’s director of global engagement. He is president of the Global Situation Room.