From financial scandals to factory fires, crises are an often unavoidable fact of business life. While the situations themselves may not be preventable, one way to minimize their impact on a company's reputation is by utilizing a tool that may already be in place: an online pressroom.
"During the chaos, a PR professional can pop in [relevant] details and take it live immediately," says Ibrey Woodall, director of marketing at TEKgroup, a PR content-management software provider. "Then journalists can go in and grab essential elements."
A 2005 survey by Euro RSCG Magnet and Columbia University reported that 76% of journalists found that "corporate candidness in times of crisis is quite poor."
That can be damaging to a company in crisis, says Marcia Yudkin, Boston-based author of Web Site Marketing Makeover.
"If there's no information on the site, people may come to the conclusion that the company is not interested in responding," Yudkin says. "That makes a very bad impression."
If a chemical company has an explosion at its plant, for example, "reporters will want to know something about it," Yudkin says. "If the only way they can get the company's point of view is to call a spokesperson, that's not efficient."
By contrast, she says, by adding a home page reference and link to its updated pressroom, the company can provide immediate information on the explosion's cause, express condolences, and assure community members' safety.
"That's going to help calm people down and get across the company's side of the story," Yudkin explains.
"It's impossible to take all the calls during a crisis," agrees Mary Schnack, president of Sedona, AZ-based Mary Schnack Media Services. By taking advantage of its online pressroom, she says, a company has "a better way of controlling information."
In non-crisis times, Schnack encourages clients to keep their pressrooms up to date. A prepared-in-advance page - kept offline until needed - would offer details specific to emergency situations. That's especially valuable for companies that shy away from crisis planning, Schnack says. "It allows them to start being proactive immediately."
Online pressrooms provide a fast, effective way to disseminate information to the media during a crisis
They also allow employees, investors, and community members to obtain information during a crisis
A crisis comms Web page can be prepared in advance and made live when needed