When Do You Need A Media Crisis Plan?

October 6, 2010

Most, if not all business owners have plans in place to mitigate physical risk including lost data, fire, flood and theft. That’s a no-brainer and the responsible thing to do, right? But while we plan for physical crises, many of us overlook catastrophic planning for an issue that can come out of NOWHERE: a media crisis.

A media crisis can arise from any of the physical issues listed above or can present itself from something much less anticipated: a disgruntled employee or customer who contacts the media about a real – or imagined – dispute. How do you protect yourself from bad press? Who do you call to diminish your corporate exposure? It happens more than you might imagine. Please consider a conversation with an accredited public relations counselor and get the 411 on how they can mitigation your exposure.

When is the right time to include a PR consultant on your team? Below are a few examples in which BroadBased has been called in to defuse situations and attenuate exposure. You should call your PR consultant if you hear:

  • “I’m going to call the media” (they might not be serious, but what if they are?)
  • “I’m going to call the police” (reports are public and the media monitors police radios)
  • “I’m telling Ken” (referring to Ken Amaro, an excellent consumer protection journalist who is a go-to source for business and customer disputes)
  • “I’m going to sue you!” (obviously, legal issues are worse than any media crisis, but legal issues also make good media stories)
  • “I’m going to make a complaint to regulatory agency” (if your service business is regulated by a state agency ­– like the Department of Professional Regulation – the dispute can become a public one)

Additionally, your PR partner may be able to mitigate the issue if:

  • You make a police report for any reason – theft, robbery, fraud
  • A customer, current or ex-employee maligns you or your business via online forums (think newspaper or blog comment sections) or through an email campaign

If you don’t already have an accredited PR counselor, BroadBased’s Maria Coppola, APR, can help you plan for or mitigate any media crisis.

Print and online media personnel work on daily (and sometimes hourly) deadlines. If a reporter called you at 8 p.m. alerting you to a potentially damaging story that would appear in the morning news, what’s your plan? Please consider it. It happens more than you would suspect.


Jan Hirabayashi founded BroadBased in 1996 and is the company's CEO and lead marketing strategist.