Can you fix a crisis?

Unfortunately, in PR we tend to come across the term ‘crisis’ quite often, probably because we are always on standby in case our clients have an emergency.

Crisis management is such an important tool in PR purely because a crisis has the potential to seriously damage a reputation. Think back to last year when it was revealed that a selection of Tesco and ASDA beef products contained horsemeat. I don’t know about you, but that definitely made me think differently about shopping there and added to their ‘cheap’ image.

A crisis can appear in many different shapes and forms but there are certain steps we can take to minimise damage. So what did Tesco and ASDA do to manage their crisis? Well, Tesco placed full-page adverts in national UK newspapers apologising for the scandal, while ASDA attempted to pass the blame onto someone else. The way they managed the issue definitely had an effect on their reputation. In this case, I would predict customers would be more likely to rebuild the trust they have in Tesco than ASDA, as an apology demonstrates values and social responsibility. That is, of course, unless you believe that it genuinely wasn’t ASDA’s fault…but that’s a different debate.

Inevitably, when situations like this arise we, as customers, lose a little faith and think slightly less of the brands we are buying from. In this particular situation, we may also be weary when buying beef products. However, having worked in PR for a little while now, I have noticed that there are still things that we can do to gain back a bit of the public’s trust. Personally I think the most important thing you can do is respond appropriately. No matter what the situation, you should explain what happened, why it happened and what you are going to do in the future. You should also make sure you have deployed allies and ambassadors who can speak positively about the company. After all, PR is all about what others are saying about you.

Last week at Health+Care our chairman, Trevor Morris, professor of PR, held a session on crisis and reputation management. Speaking to a range of healthcare professionals, he gave them some really clear and simple ways to manage a crisis. However, the one thing that stuck with me and got me thinking about the horsemeat scandal was when he said you should never underestimate the power of an apology. He noted that lawyers will often tell you not to apologise to avoid admitting guilt, but you should always do so after a crisis because the public will appreciate the consideration.

I know that saying sorry can’t solve every problem, but it often makes a good start after a crisis. However, prevention is always better than cure, and improving communications in the health sector more generally will definitely help to avoid crises. To contribute, Salix & Co has just joined ITN productions to form a new communication network for the NHS Alliance (formally launched by Trevor’s session at Health+Care). We will be offering members simple and practical guidelines to help them communicate effectively with patients and the public to manage potentially damaging media situations.

So, to return to the question: can we fix a crisis? Well, avoiding them all together is the ideal, but there are also certain measures you can take to improve a damaging situation. Saying sorry definitely would have helped Luis Suarez after biting Giorgio Chiellini – apparently his refusal to accept he had done wrong played a big part in deciding the length of his ban. Missing out on the rest of the World Cup and four month exclusion… bet he wished he apologised sooner now.

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A Day in the Life of a PR Apprentice

Anouska Cope/20/Assistant Account Executive

If you had said to me a year ago that in six months I would be an assistant account executive at a respected PR company, I would have thought you were mad.

I decided that I wanted to get into public relations because I’ve always been good at communicating with people and coming up with creative ideas. It made sense to focus these skills on improving reputations and delivering innovative hard-hitting campaigns. Coincidently, I started talking to someone about how I wanted to pursue a career in PR and it just so happened that they knew someone who ran their own PR consultancy. Salix & Co specialise in communications within the health, education and social sectors and had been looking to take on an apprentice for some time. After an interview and a month of interning, I became their first apprentice.

At Salix I am given more and more responsibility every day. I was assigned 2 clients and work closely with the account managers to meet their needs. Every morning I arrive at our office in Balham by 9am, avoiding the rush hour crowds that head towards central London. I start my day with a cup of tea while I reply to emails and jot down a ‘to do’ list for the day. I am then responsible for sending out my client’s newsletter, controlling several social media accounts and recording any coverage my clients have received. We constantly keep on top of what’s going on in the media, especially in our sectors. Most days I finish at 5:30pm, which gives me time for a quick gym sesh before I collapse in front of the telly.

photo 3 (3)I put aside two afternoons a week to concentrate on my apprenticeship coursework, which my line managers help me with as much as they can. Salix is teaching me how to write press releases, giving me advice on how to deliver professional presentations and allowing me to sit in on meetings with potential clients. I have an assessor who comes in once a month to check my progress and give me any necessary feedback.

When I first started the director was particularly interested in my background in design. I love graphic design and planned to do it at university, but now I get to incorporate it into my work every day. I recently designed the launch document for one of our biggest campaigns to date, Dispensing Health. Whenever someone needs something to look nice, I’m their ‘go to girl’. As much as PR focuses on the written word, people often forget how creative it is. It involves a lot of creative thinking and brainstorming. From the office manager to the associate director, the whole team play a part in coming up with new ideas for campaigns.

Salix gets very involved within its sector and we are constantly out at events, talks and conferences. Already, Salix have sent me to a HealthChat, a Gorkana breakfast and on a course about how to pitch to the media. I have also been to an education conference and a careers day on behalf of one of my clients. If you want to work in this industry it helps to be a sociable person. Networking is a massive component of PR and eventually you will be in and out of the office on a regular basis.

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By doing an apprenticeship I am both earning and learning. Living in London is expensive but by earning a decent wage I can afford to be independent without being worried about any debt. Not only does an apprenticeship increase employability skills, it also lands you a nationally recognised qualification. Having said this, one of the best perks of being an apprentice is having an NUS student card – I love saving 10% here and there!

My advice to those who aren’t sure what to do is make sure you do your research. It’s important to find out whether the career you want to pursue requires a degree. Be smart. University isn’t cheap, especially if you are going for the experience. Also, remember that you don’t have to rule out getting a degree as it’s so easy to go back to university as a mature student. This is becoming an increasingly popular option because it gives you time to think about what you really want to study so that you can get the most out of your degree.

This blog was first published on http://www.unisnotforme.com/