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5 Solos Share How They Deal With a Client Crisis

Just because you’re a solo PR pro doesn’t mean you’re in this alone. There’s a whole community of like minded people you can lean on.

In this monthly series, we ask five Solo PR Pro members to share their best tips, tricks and resources for managing their solo business.

5 solo PR pros advise on crisis communications

This month, we asked our panel of solo PR pros to share how they deal with a client crisis.

Read on for their helpful tips.

1. Joe Culotta, What's Up Communications

The very first thing I tell a client when dealing with a crisis is DO. NOT. LIE! 

It’s better to be transparent and honest with your problem because there’s a chance that your audience can easily forgive you and help make the bad headlines go away quickly. 

These days with social media, reporters and/or the general public can make the situation worse and last longer than needed if you’re caught lying.

2. Michael Ares, MDA Corporate Marketing, LLC

In dealing with client crises large and small over the past 35 years, I have found that the one indispensable ingredient for success is trust. Trust between myself and my client. Trust between my client and their key stakeholders. And trust that the strategy and tactics I propose and which we ultimately arrive upon will be faithfully executed.

When a crisis hits, there is one thing at risk from a reputation and branding standpoint that rises above all other considerations – will our key constituents believe that what we say and do in response is credible and transparent? Are we telling them the truth? Are we telling them all we know?

If the answers to these questions are a resounding “Yes!”, the path forward becomes a manageable exercise that can draw upon best practices proven to deliver results over both the short- and long-term. If there is any hesitation or hedging in these answers, problems are bound to arise that will likely not end well for anyone involved.

In crisis communications – as in all aspects of my client engagements – I see my job as delivering the best, most thoughtful, and – importantly – most candid insight and advice I have. That’s my job. That’s what they’ve hired me to provide for the money they’re paying me. Now, they don’t have to take that counsel – and sometimes they don’t — but that’s okay. That decision is on them. But to hold back delivering the expertise I’ve been engaged to provide seems to me to fall short of my responsibility to them.

3. Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA, Falcon Valley Group

When advising a client navigating a crisis, there needs to be transparency and trust in the working relationship. The client must have confidence in your expertise, and understand you have their best interests in mind above all. Any shred of doubt damages the process. 

Beyond any smart tactical advice, by far the best asset we can offer is a calm, steadying presence. If we panic, they panic. This serves no one. A measured, thoughtful, reassuring voice is priceless. This is where a seasoned solo’s counsel shines.

4. Tara McDonagh, Tara McDonagh Communications, LLC

When a client is experiencing a crisis, my mantra is: listen, ask, assess, and act.  

First, getting a complete understanding of the issue is vital. Clients rely on me to listen, then ask questions and identify the blind spots. It's a superpower! Being honest is vital – in my counsel to them, their information sharing with me, and their end-result communications. As for act, this is both about activating their crisis communications plan, and ensuring the focus isn’t only about answering, “what do we say”, but importantly, “what do we do?”

5. Jessica Lawlor, Jessica Lawlor & Company

When it comes to helping clients through a crisis situation, my biggest piece of advice is to slow down. I know that may sound a bit counterintuitive, but hear me out! 

Yes, in a crisis scenario, it's important to act quickly and decisively, but oftentimes, mistakes are made when we don't take the time to slow down and fully assess a situation before reacting. 

Give yourself a few minutes. Breathe. Soak in all the information you can about what's going on, and then formulate a plan so that when you do take action, you can feel confident in your next steps.

We want to hear from you! How do you help navigate clients through a crisis? Leave your response in the comments section below or tag us on social media using #solopr.