26th PR Congress Explores How Crisis Communication is a Social Responsibility

Organizations, whether founded on entrepreneurial, commercial, industrial or political objectives, face crisis throughout the course of their operation or existence. A crisis may result from a natural cause or could rise from a man-made activity or action. It may be big or small, affect internal or external stakeholders or both, and has an impact that may be either short-term or longer-lasting.

Regardless of the nature, size, impact or duration of a crisis, it has the ability to define—or redefine in some cases–the direction or growth trajectory of an organization. Many companies’ fate had been changed by how they responded to and managed a crisis.

A growing number of enterprises and corporations invest in a manual to guide them on what to do and how to react should a crisis occur. But despite the necessity of having such a reference material, many organizations find themselves having to take a reactive approach instead of a proactive one when it comes to crisis management.

Apart from the urgency and cost considerations, PR and communication professionals grapple with a slew of potential scenarios when crafting a response or communication plan in responding to or managing a crisis. More importantly, given today’s political climate and consumers’ heightened involvement in social discourses, crisis communicators must tread carefully lest they be seen negatively by their publics or upset certain sectors of the society, either of which can make the situation even worse. So the question still is: “Is there a better way to deal with crisis?”

Message is key

Industry experts note that while readiness is important in managing a crisis, knowing “how” to respond is one thing. “When the responses reek of plausible deniability or are combative, patronizing or sugar-coated, these can result in consumer backlash,” said Ana Pista, vice-president of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP), the country’s premier organization for PR professionals.

Fiona Cassidy, APR and chairman of the board of the Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRINZ), is well aware of the value of a well thought-out plan in handling a crisis, especially the impact it might have on the community for the long term. The communications veteran will share best practices and the insights she has learned in dealing with crisis, the most recent of which was the tragedy that struck New Zealand earlier this year, at the upcoming 26th National Public Relations Congress set for September 24 and 25 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

“A crisis challenges us but it may also present an opportunity for organizations to turn the situation into a social responsibility. Either way, clear and timely communication is crucial,” said Cassidy, who once tested her communication and negotiation skills when she joined the peacekeeping force sent to Bougainville in the late 90s, itself an unprecedented approach to settling a crisis.

PRSP president Andy Saracho, APR noted how crisis communication strategies may differ across industries. “What is important is to be able to address the concerns of the different stakeholders in the most truthful, sensitive and timely manner. As communicators, we owe it to our publics to provide them with the information that they need at the time they need it,” he added.

This year’s PR congress aims to amplify key communication issues that have been challenging PR professionals in the country and to calibrate the PR practice in the Philippines against global standards.

The 26th National Public Relations Congress offers discounts to PRSP members, students, members of the academe, government employees, NGOs, senior citizens and PWDs. Interested parties may contact Monique Galza through moniquegalza.prsp@ardent.com.ph or 631-0511 for more information.

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ABOUT THE PUBLIC RELATIONS SOCIETY OF THE PHILIPPINES

The Public Relations Society of the Philippines is the country’s premier organization for public relations professionals with dedicated programs in professional development and continued learning, PR excellence, student PR education, social outreach and partnerships with institutions. Annually, it confers the Anvil Awards, the Oscar of PR in the country and holds the National PR Congress in September, the National PR Month.

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