Ideally, before a crisis occurs you would see it coming and be able to avert it or at least deal with it quietly in a manner that is both professional and in the best interest of both your company and the parties involved. Sadly, this rarely happens. No, instead when a crisis happens you are usually forced to go into crisis management, also known as damage control.

There are too many approaches to crisis management to try and look at all of them, but that doesn't mean we can't look at some of the methods that PR professionals use to help their clients when everything starts to hit the fan and everybody is scrambling to fix it.

Get Out in Front
Sometimes you are fortuitous enough to see the damage coming, and are quickly able to see that there's going to be no avoiding it. Maybe there's a high-profile arrest, or some kind of accident that while arguably avoidable, wasn't avoided and now has to be dealt with.

Regardless of how avoidable the situation was or wasn't, the first step to getting ahead is to have a plan in place for when crisis strikes. This typically means having meetings ahead of any crisis to establish certain protocols in the event of a crisis to establish who will be at the forefront of the effort to get ahead of the crisis.

In the event that general PR crisis planning hasn't occurred before a crisis strikes, getting ahead of the crisis so that it can be managed properly will rely on several key steps.

The first step, after getting in touch with your PR/Crisis Management team, will be to appoint a spokesperson to be the voice of the company to the media and the public. Having one point of contact ensures that the message going out is the one you want and avoids conflicting stories being released to the public.

Assuming that you didn't learn about the crisis from the media, breaking the news to the media gives you conrol over what information comes out at first. It's unrealistic to expect only what you announce to come out, but at least by making the initial release you come out looking like you're already dealing with the situation instead of scrambling to react.

Lay Out Your Strategy
When breaking the story to the public, make sure to not only apologize, but to make clear not only that you're already working to deal with the situation, but WHAT you're doing to deal with the situation. Whether this means somebody is losing their job, you're no longer working with a company, or a product will no longer be offered, don't let the public speculate on what you'll be doing by making it clear.

Once you've laid out your strategy for dealing with the incident, be sure to actually follow through with it. Saying one thing and doing another is an easy way to find yourself back in front of the media trying to explain why you changed your mind. If you have to approach the crisis in a different way than initially planned that's fine, just be sure to let everybody know instead of having them find out after the fact. Keeping the public in the loop about what you're doing is the easiest way to garner whatever good-will you're going to get.

Don't Be Afraid to Toot Your Own Horn
Especially if you do a great job of handling the crisis, don't be afraid to publicize how you handled it, even if it is exactly how you said you would when you first announced the crisis and how you were going to handle it. Damage control means not only fixing the problem, but letting everybody know you fixed the problem so that they know you can be trusted not to let problems get out of hand in the future should they occur.

Author's Bio: 

Thom Constantine has worked with several crisis management firms, including a legal PR firm and a healthcare PR firm. To learn more about crisis management, visit: MacStrategies.com .