By: Harry Prestanski, Director of Public Relations
“Who needs PR?” was the usual response from corporate managers not too long ago. Then several prominent organizations faced major crises – the 1977 Ford Pinto problems, the Tylenol tampering, toxic shock syndrome and Rely Tampons, and the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal. The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill became the poster child for PR and crisis communications management.
Management of crises can often make or break a corporation. The Tylenol incident, for example, was managed well and became a textbook example of how to handle crisis communications, while other incidents resulted in badly damaged reputations and lost credibility. As each of these crises demonstrated a need for public relations, organizations began to reevaluate the role and value of PR. The crisis communications management plan became an integral part of the PR plan.
Today, organizations are again facing major PR challenges. Daily news reports of corporate wrongdoing, product recalls, market declines and Chapter 11 filings all impact how the public views all businesses, not just those in the headlines. Credibility and public confidence that have taken years to build can disappear literally overnight.
An effective PR strategic plan enables organizations of any size to be prepared for large and small problems. Incorporating a sound plan, and reviewing it regularly, can allow decision-makers to effectively deal with challenges if, and when, they occur.