Crisis Gives Best Opportunity
"In The Middle Of Difficulty Lies Opportunity." -Albert Einstein
by Bhushan Astulkar
Crisis communication is a method of communication with people and organisations during a crisis situation with information that will be required to respond to the situation. Crisis situations in communication is all about preventing the bad from getting worse, make the most out of the situation through learning and creating opportunities. Yes, that’s right, crisis gives the best opportunities for a communication professional to grow professionally and personally. While handling the crisis mandate for one of our clients I realised it is not just about media relations and training your client what to speak during such times but, also about bringing the real you out and face the challenges which are not even anticipated on ground by anyone. That’s where you create the real magic turning every challenge into an opportunity.
When we talk about opportunities created by crisis, it is all about learning and developing yourself into a communications professional and being better as compared to what you were a couple of years back. During a client crisis situation, you tend to be always alert and ready to walk the rope to balance out the situation for the stakeholders involved viz. media, customers, and client. While handling on ground media during a crisis communication mandate we got to understand the real media situation on ground. The type of tonality and sentiments they have for the brand as well as the relationship they share with the brand. Being in a different territory it is very hard for an outsider to understand the psyche of the local media and during such situations you get to understand and learn about the media traits. Being a media professional, it is mandatory to keep track of every nerve of media from different regions.
A crisis situation not only provides an opportunity to understand the ground reality of the media but also provides an immense scope in face to face interaction with the media publications. The experience of speaking with the heads and leaders of media houses is completely different from speaking with a journalist on call. You tend to learn the subtle art of convincing the editor about the “goodness of your brand” despite of it being in neck deep water of crisis. At this point of time you have to keep your facts and details right and need to understand what card needs to be shown. This is a situation where you must keep the most vital information related to crisis to yourself but at the same time get the job done through the publication with desired results.
Communication crisis is the arena where you must expect the unexpected and always keep a plan-B ready. It teaches you to be great at anticipating things and situations where it can go wrong. Handling a crisis situation mandate teaches you the art of anticipation which is a must have when you are dealing with stakeholders who are as unpredictable as weather. While you have set the chords right with the publications and gave the required information to set things right for the brand, it may happen that the publications will print exactly opposite of what you expected them to publish for your brand. This is where the plan B comes into picture for you to get on your toes and start sprinting to fire fight the condition. While handling a crisis situation for my client, I learned a lesson which is not only useful for me in my professional but personal life also. During one of my meetings with editors I was assured that the information which I had shared will be published in the newspaper about my client’s launch program. As soon as I got out of the office of the editor the client which I was handling got a notification from government about a penalty which was going to be levied on them. This news turned the table entirely and I was on a run with my plan B. The launch plan was in danger as I had to keep the negative news out of media or at least share a counter release with the media which will neutralise the effect of the negative news. We immediately created a press release about the launch and mentioned about the aim and objective behind the launch. The next day both news stories were carried by publications across the city on same page adjacent to each other. This act neutralised the effect of negative news on fine by the government and the launch also received a great response from the media as well as from all the invitees.
According to Martha Whitley, Adjunct Professor at College of Communications and the Arts, Seton Hall University, crisis communication is like Olympics of public relations. It is a different type of public relations, but it is exciting, and it gets your adrenaline going”. True to the core, it provides you with an immense opportunity of showcasing your true talent and learning abilities. Along with providing you with an opportunity to be a good communications professional it helps you in becoming a keen observer, a great negotiator, impeccable planner and the one who can anticipate the future of the campaign. When you are in crisis communication you get your hands dirty, but the rewards are more than a trophy. It turns you into a PR powerhouse which is a requirement of the time