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Crisis communication and the art of shifting public opinion

Crisis Communication And The Art Of Shifting Public Opinion

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By Frida Reddy

This year the wine and spirits world has had to face many diverse crises: from hailstorms in Bordeaux and wildfires in California, to lawsuits over restaurant owners and sommelier organizations… No business or brand is immune from a crisis, so best be prepared to manage one when and if the time comes. The goal of crisis communication is to minimize the damage of a negative threat, and in some cases emerge stronger than before the crisis.

Why hire a PR agency to help?

  • Responsiveness: A crisis needs to be handled quickly so that the brand or organization has a chance to relay their version of the story before media cover it based on assumptions or too little information. Having experienced people on hand to go through the several steps of the communication process is key
  • Preparedness: When a crisis hits, everything happens very fast. It’s common to panic and feel overwhelmed, stumble and make statements that one wishes they hadn’t in hindsight. Being prepared helps to remain focused and provide accurate information
  • Diffusion: Agencies have hundreds of contacts that they work with every day and can disseminate the appropriate information broadly

What is the process like?

Message development: The agency will draft messaging that can be used through various communications channels: press releases, website, social media, direct marketing, etc. The agency will ensure that the message is clear, concise and well-written. Partnering with a U.S.-based agency for brands and organizations based outside of the U.S. is crucial to ensure communication is adapted to the U.S. market. Everyone should be aligned with a coherent and consistent message that will be used for media outreach and media inquiries. A messaging document should be shared internally within the business with employees and stakeholders, partners, vendors and clients as they will appreciate receiving updates straight from the source.

Spokespeople media training: In the initial steps, the agency will need to know who the company or organization has identified as a key spokesperson (or spokespeople). These are individuals that are well-spoken and knowledgeable, available on short notice and can speak generally on behalf of the business. Media training will help ensure that the spokespeople are prepared to discuss the ongoing issue with the proper attitude while delivering the key messages.

Media outreach: The agency will proactively disseminate press releases, statements and updates for media across print, online and broadcast channels. The earlier the better so that the organization has a stronger chance of telling its story before inaccurate information is spread. For an even broader reach, the PR agency can share with major local or regional institutions and businesses.

Media engagement: An agency team will be the main contact for all media inquiries and will respond on behalf of the company or organization. The agency will address interview requests on a case by case basis, tailored according to the writer, outlet and channel and provide insights on each accordingly. The agency will also contact media who’ve written false information and correct the news.

News monitoring: The team will watch and record conversations in media and on social media, keep track of tone of article/post and analyze the news.

What are the effects of a crisis well managed? Once the communication plan has been executed, the business can hope to see shifting public opinion from a negative situation to a positive achievement, measurable by immediate and tangible results.

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