PR crisis

How to Not Panic During a Crisis

We’ve said it before, and we will keep saying it: it’s not if a crisis will hit your company, but when. A crisis, big or small, will affect your company at some point, but if you are prepared to put out the fires, there won’t be any need to panic. Here are some tips on how to handle a crisis without panicking:

10 Blogs To Help You Rejuvenate Your Crisis Communications Strategy for 2019

Every company should have a crisis communications plan in place, when was the last time you reviewed yours? Crisis communications is a topic that every company should be well versed in so in the inevitable case that something occurs, you have a plan in place to combat and solve the issue. We have found these top 10 blogs to be helpful:

Trucking Industry Needs To Prepare For Crisis


Businesses can go months or years without a crisis, but eventually, all businesses have to manage one. Although all industries are susceptible to PR disasters, the transportation industry is especially vulnerable. Alchemy Communications Inc. CEO and Crisis Communications expert, Kathryn Kolaczek, has worked with companies in the trucking industry and said: “it’s not a matter of if a crisis will happen, it’s a matter of when, and a crisis in the trucking industry often involves at least one fatality.”

Research indicates that 98 percent of all semi accidents result in at least one fatality and nearly 90 percent of commercial truck accidents are caused or worsened by some sort of human error. Kathryn has some tips that she urges companies to implement – crisis planning can save a companies reputation, and more importantly, it can save lives.

•    Anticipate Crisis Scenarios – conducting a thorough review of current internal and external communication practices within an organization and studying past crisis situations to identify warning signs goes a long way in preventing a crisis. For example, driver fatigue is a leading cause of accidents and sleep apnea; a common disorder has been identified as a problem for truck drivers. It is wise for trucking companies to implement mandatory testing for sleep apnea so affected drivers are treated.

•    Media Training is Essential – crisis situations attract a lot of mainstream, and social media attention and the way in which a company responds to a crisis is heavily scrutinized. A poorly worded response can make a bad situation worse and destroy the reputation of a company for years to come.

•    Develop a Crisis Communications Checklist – In a crisis, it’s difficult to think clearly. Having policies and procedures in place, along with roles and responsibilities identified for a crisis management team increases the likelihood of handling the crisis well.

Many business leaders believe that a crisis won’t happen to them and unfortunately, it’s just not the case.  Alchemy Communications has developed comprehensive crisis communications plans and ongoing support for the transportation industry. For a FREE consultation, contact us today.

Prevention: The Best Crisis Management Strategy


The best way to manage a crisis is to avoid having one in the first place! One key benefit of investing in crisis communications planning is that it serves as an opportunity to identify areas of vulnerability within your organization. With this knowledge, you can proactively implement policies and procedures that will reduce the likelihood of your organization experiencing a full blown PR fiasco. In this blog post, we’ll discuss three preventative crisis communications strategies for your business.

1) Invest in a Comprehensive Crisis Communications Plan

An experienced crisis communications practitioner will conduct a thorough review of current internal and external communications practices, and identify high-risk areas (i.e. an inadequate internal process for reporting HR complaints). They also conduct extensive industry research and can educate you on how past leaders handled PR issues and what the outcomes were.  For an organization, it’s easy to overlook warning signs of a pending crisis. What’s more, many leaders have a mentality that PR blows“won’t happen to us” – a practiced expert will surely point out your “blind spots” so you can implement a preventative strategy.

2) Cultivate a Strong People-Centered and Customer Service-Centered Culture

Corporate culture goes a long way in preventing a crisis. Employers must communicate clearly to their employees about what performance expectations are, and what the consequences of not meeting expectations will be. Also, employers need to have a well-defined code and conduct and social media policy.

When it comes to customer service, handling complaints swiftly and sincerely cannot be underestimated. Disgruntled customers are hugely problematic to your business. They not only express their grievances on social media but also often are compelled to call members of the press.  Far reaching customer complaints often result in long-term reputational damage that hurts your bottom line.

3) Communicate Your Community Relations Efforts

Many organizations and their staff do great work in the community. Unfortunately, the public isn’t always aware of these efforts. Be sure to highlight community outreach programs on your website, social media pages and in person, by wearing company branded merchandise when volunteering. It may feel like you’re boastful if your company is actively promoting charitable efforts, but if you don't the only people who will be aware of your contributions are those people that you’re helping. What’s more, corporate philanthropic efforts allow employees to feel like they're working for a greater purpose, which leads to increased job satisfaction. Customers also feel like they’re making a difference in the world when they buy products and services from socially responsible organizations. In a study conducted by Unilever, 20,000 individuals from five countries were surveyed about their brand preferences. The results indicated that 33% of consumers buy from brands doing social or environmental good.

Crisis communications planning is an area of expertise for the Alchemy Communications team. We have worked with business leaders across different industries to develop comprehensive plans. To discuss the needs of your organization, please contact us today.














7 Quick Tips for Managing Social Media In a Crisis


In 60 seconds online, there are 448,800 Tweets posted, 3.3 Million Facebook Posts and 3.8 Million Google searches conducted. Today, information is transmitted unbelievably fast and can become a problem for brands dealing with a crisis. Here are seven tips that will ensure you’re prepared when crisis strikes.

1) Have a Social Media Policy

You may be confident that all your employees exercise discretion when it comes to conducting themselves online, but not outlining a social media policy and having clear guidelines is a mistake. Remember that your employees are brand ambassadors and inappropriate or discriminatory posts on their social media pages still reflect poorly on you.

2) Monitor Social Media

It’s important to be on top of your brand's current online sentiment. The longer you go without addressing negative posts, the worse the situation gets. 

3) Get All the Facts, Quickly

Information spreads on social media platforms at a rapid speed, and your stakeholders are waiting for your statement. Furthermore, the longer you go without comment, the longer incorrect or unfair information has to make its way around the Internet.  Of course, it’s important that information is correct and verifying details takes time, just recognize the urgency of the situation.

4) Own it, and Apologize

Never underestimate the power of an apology. Time and again, we’ve seen that companies that apologize swiftly and sincerely improve public perception faster.

5) Address Negative Comments

It’s important for the reputation of your brand to address negative comments posted on your social media pages while maintaining a respectful tone. 

6) Pause Scheduled Posts

Nothing will turn off your customers more in a crisis than having a post that’s out of context. Be sure to turn off all scheduled posts until the crisis has settled down. Even after it's over, be sure to review previously scheduled posts to ensure they’re still appropriate.

7) Update Website

Consider putting a FAQ page on your website that has detailed information about the incident. That way, when you tweet out updates regarding the situation, you can include a link that has critical information for stakeholders. 

We’re experts at managing social media and crisis communications at Alchemy Communications, contact us today for a free consultation to discuss how we can help your organization.




Well Handled: What You Can Learn From 3 Businesses That Successfully Managed a Crisis


From Uber to United Airlines, we’ve seen some PR fiascos this year that have shown us what NOT to do when a crisis breaks. Although we can learn some valuable lessons from other’s missteps while managing a PR issue, it’s worthwhile to review some well-managed crisis situations. In this post, we’ll highlight how Taco Bell, The American Red Cross and Tylenol managed their own PR disasters. 

Taco Bell: “Seasoned Beef” Lawsuit (2011) 

Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum! Brands was sued by the Alabama law firm Beasley, Allen, Crown Methvin, Portis & Miles on behalf of Taco Bell customer Amanda Obney, who wanted a court to order Taco Bell to be honest in its advertising. The suit claimed that Taco Bell was lying in its advertising and the company’s “seasoned beef” contained only 35% beef. Taco Bell denied that its advertising was misleading and spokesperson, Rob Poetsch, said the company would “vigorously defend the suit.” Indeed, the company fought back, largely on social media platforms. In a video uploaded on YouTube, Greg Creed, Taco Bell’s President explains the food chain’s beef is composed of 88% beef and the other 12% is a secret, which he goes onto list every ingredient in the video. In the end, the majority of Twitter comments were supportive of Taco Bell and less than four months later, the lawsuit was dropped. 

What we learned: Being transparent in a crisis situation is critical – customers will reward you for it. 

American Red Cross Rogue Tweet (2011) 

Red Cross social media specialist, Gloria Huang caused herself some embarrassment when she accidentally posted a rogue tweet on the American Red Cross’ Twitter account. 

The tweet was intended for her personal page, and she later blamed her “inability to use HootSuite” for the error. The rogue tweet stayed up for about an hour before it was taken down with subsequent, lighthearted apologies.  

What’s great is that Dogfish Head Brewery used the rogue tweet to encourage both donations to the Red Cross and consumption of their beer on their twitter handle in response to the tweet. 

What we learned: Firstly, if you’re responsible for your organization's social media posting, always double-check what you’re posting. Secondly, as long as the rogue tweet wasn’t offensive, it’s okay to have a sense of humour about errors such as these. After all, customers continually state in research they like brands that have a personality online. 

Tylenol Murders (1982) 

By October 1, 1982, seven lives in the Chicago area were lost after a poisoning spree in which the killer bought Extra-Strength Tylenol bottles, injected them with cyanide and sneaked them back onto the shelves of drug and grocery stores. Unfortunately, the case has never been solved, but Johnson & Johnson, the parent-company of Tylenol, has been widely praised for how they handled the disaster. Without a suspect in the case, Johnson & Johnson quickly recalled an estimated 31 million bottles of Tylenol products, a retail value of over US $100 million. The company halted Tylenol production and advertising. What’s more, Johnson & Johnson took out ads in national media to inform consumers to avoid any of its products that contained acetaminophen. In addition to the recall, the company worked with the Chicago Police Department, the FBI, and the Food and Drug Administration. Not surprisingly, the market share of Tylenol collapsed during that period but had rebounded in less than a year, which has been attributed to the effective response of the company. When Tylenol was reintroduced into the market, it had a new, triple-sealed package. 

What we learned: It cost Johnson & Johnson millions of dollars to manage this crisis well, but the short-term financial loss was well worth it in the long-run. Although recalls and disruption to production and advertising are costly, you’ll lose more in the long-run if it’s not done. 

Alchemy Communications has specialized knowledge and experience working with businesses to develop and execute effective crisis communications plans. Contact us today for a free consultation















3 Reasons to Invest in Crisis Communications Media Training for Your Business


Whether you’re just starting your business or are well-established, there is no shortage of costs associated with running your business. As a business owner, you may feel investing in public relations, and particularly crisis communications training is unnecessary.  However, this is a mistake – a well-prepared crisis communication plan can prevent a full-blown PR fiasco and save your companies hard earned reputation. Below are three reasons to invest in a crisis communication plan. 

1)    A Crisis Situation is Inevitable 

Although months and years may go by without an incident, eventually a crisis will occur. Crisis situations arise from natural disasters, health and safety issues, problematic employees and so on. Additionally, your brand reputation can be damaged just by being associated with another company in crisis (i.e. being a supplier). There isn’t a business or industry that is immune to dealing with a crisis, and they arise unpredictably.  

2)    Crisis Situations are Costly 

Crisis situations can have a dramatic effect on company valuation and cash flow, for a business of any size. In March 2017, CBC’s Go Public team aired a story about TD Bank employees admittedly increasing customer’s overdraft and credit limits without their knowledge to meet aggressive sales targets outlined by the bank. In the segment, employees discussed how they feared to lose their job if they didn’t meet their sales quota.  On March 10, 2017, in a single-day, the bank’s stock dropped 5.6 percent and erased all the gains it had made for 2017.  The share price for Chipotle Mexican Grill plunged after an E. coli outbreak affected dozens of customers in 2015 and took months to recover.  Stock sell-offs and lawsuits resulting from crisis situations are incredibly damaging for large corporations, but small-businesses without the same resources can ultimately face bankruptcy. 

3)    A Poorly Worded Response Makes a Bad Situation Worse 

Crisis situations attract a lot of attention from mainstream and social media. When a company releases a statement in response to a crisis, you can guarantee it will be scrutinized. History has shown that weak responses can make an already bad situation worse.  Canadian athletic retailer, Lululemon, faced intense backlash after its founder, Chip Wilson, made inappropriate comments in a television interview about women's body shapes being the culprit of see-through pants after widespread complaints about pants being "too sheer.” Not only did Lululemon take a financial hit after having to recall 17% of all women’s pants sold in stores, but Wilson exasperated many people with his remarks. Since you don’t think as clearly in crisis mode, comments can very well be received poorly by the public.  

An experienced crisis communications expert can help develop a crisis management plan to positively influence the public perception of your brand before, during and after a crisis breaks. Contact us today to learn more.  





A Tale of Two Ads: What can we learn from Pepsi and Heineken?

In the age of social media, it can sometimes feel like for every opinion you hold, there’s someone else who feels just as strongly in the opposite direction, and that casual dialogue is impossible. Two recent advertisements from Pepsi and Heineken tried to capitalize on this sentiment, with vastly different results. Today, we’re exploring why one of these ads was a massive success, and the other resulted in numerous public apologies.

Crisis Communications: When to Hire a PR Team


The questions don’t do the damage. Only the answers do.

~ Sam Donaldson, reporter and news anchor

The tragedy unfolding this week with the horrific crash of the German passenger plane in the French Alps demonstrates the need to have an informed spokesperson prepared to represent your organization if a public crisis occurs. Crisis communications planning should be an ongoing process for your business, with a plan of action ready to implement if the unthinkable happens. The last thing your organization needs is a series of public media mistakes and missteps when you are most exposed and vulnerable.

The best time to hire a crisis PR team is today, before any public relations disaster has occurred. Your team should anticipate a crisis and be prepared, trained and have a solid plan to follow in the event of a crisis. Time is critical in a PR crisis, and many well-intentioned mistakes can happen in the public and media scrutiny.  Your public relations team will help your business or nonprofit prepare documents, systems and people who know how to handle an emergency:

  • Crisis communications plan: Everyone from the CEO to the receptionist to your internal marketing and sales team needs to know who to turn to with questions and information in a crisis situation. There should be clearly written procedures on who to contact when an event occurs and who is in charge of managing and executing the crisis communication plan. Employees, volunteers, advocates, stakeholders and board members must be clearly informed who is authorized to speak on behalf of your organization.
  • Identified and trained spokespersons: You may use an employee as a spokesperson, or your PR team may handle all public and media inquiries if a crisis occurs. There are benefits to both options:
    • The public and media may respond better to the CEO or other senior member of your team, and have confidence in their visibility
    • a PR professional who is not a member of your team may be better equipped to provide unemotional and professional responses in a very stressful circumstance.
    • More than one person may be needed to communicate with the public: you may have one person designated as a media spokesperson, and another person designated to manage social media. Your crisis communications plan will clearly identify who takes the lead in all crisis communications to develop and deliver all crisis messaging.

Your PR team can help you decide who is best equipped to handle crisis communications, and identify contingency options. Media training for dealing with an aggressive media under the glare of cameras and microphones or on social media should be rehearsed before a crisis event occurs.

  • Contingency plans: No matter how solid your communications plan is, and how well trained your team is on how to handle a crisis, things happen. A PR professional hasalready experienced crisis events with other clients, and can guide you through unexpected turns of event. In todays 24/7/365 instant news cycle and social media world, a story can change in an instant.

Hiring a PR team for crisis communications planning may seem expensive: but hiring a PR team after a crisis occurs to clean up the damage is even more expensive. Hiring public relations professionals to develop a crisis communications strategy before tragedy occurs is a smart investment in your company's future.

For More Reading on Crisis Communications
Meltwater: 10 Step Crisis Communication Management
PR Daily: How to Create a Crisis Plan in Less Than 30 Minutes