As I’ve said before, I love crisis communications. There’s something about the challenge of taking a bad situation and getting the best out of it, that I enjoy. The opportunity to tell the story of a company’s good works in a community that has been hurt by it (think BP), to humanize a brand, or to help rebuild a reputation that has all but been ruined is a challenge I like.
But of course, sometimes that means engaging a client that people don’t like. Or that has done something to harm the environment, or people’s lives or livelihoods. It means defending, in some cases, the indefensible. In public relations, the BIG money often comes from the indefensible industries; tobacco, legalized gambling, chemical production, firearms manufacturing, and the like, all fairly unpopular sectors with a great many haters.
So how does a PR firm decide it’s worth taking on a client that, on the surface, seems to have NOTHING positive to say?
Here are five questions to carefully consider before engaging with a crisis client:
- Does the client share the same values as you and your firm?
- Has the client demonstrated the ability to take and follow other professional counsel (e.g. legal counsel)?
- If the client has committed past sins, is that now over, and are you confident the client will not repeat the same mistakes?
- Has the client expressed true remorse and demonstrated a commitment to change, in both words and actions?
- Is there a benefit to your firm, either financially, from gained experience or as a future case study, to enable other crisis work?
If you and your firm aren’t satisfied with the answers to these questions, it’s probably wise to walk away, and allow other counsel to take on the work.