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Handling the media / Bad P.R situation

What is a public relations crisis? It can be defined as an “event, rumor, or story that has the potential to affect your reputation, image or credibility in a negative way”. (Eric Yaverbaum, Et al, p 276) A crisis will surely strike the organization at one or several given times; in such times negative media coverage aggravates the situation even further because most media organizations “thrive in times of crisis”. Organizations big or small stand equal chances of being hit by a crisis in their business lifespan. (Eric Yaverbaum, Et al, p 279) Handling the media during such times is a process that requires great expertise and foreknowledge.

The best way to handle a crisis nevertheless is to prepare for it. Organizations should be proactive rather than reactive so such inevitable situations that would surely hit the organizations. How an organization handles the media during a crisis is to a great extent determined by how well they are prepared. Crisis that hit organizations are in various forms; – and could include: -Financial and business issues -Environmental issues like waste disposal/ water treatment -Public health for example harmful materials exposure -Legal issues -Business ethics and fundraises -Industrial strikes

-Product failure -Embezzlement and fraud -Product Tampering. Almost all organizations are exposed to all these threats and they need to plan for them. Many companies collapse because of poor handling of such crisis. As a prerequisite, it is of paramount importance to cultivate good media relations in good times so that when the crisis hits the relationship would lessen the impact of negative exposure. This paper will try to give a guideline on how to handle such occurrences especially in relations to the press media, which the audience depends on for news and information.

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There are various steps one can take which should form part of the strategic plan of handling such crisis. They include:- i) Disseminate or facilitate information in a timely and from prompt manner During a crisis the fast you communicate to the press, the stake- holders, customers, victims and the general audience greatly determines how well you come out of the situation. In such situations rumours abound which may cause panic. It is very easy to loose credibility especially to your creditors and customers, which might have a severe financial impact.

A good example is the Tylenol Crisis of 1982, where there was a case of product tampering which led to the death of 7 people in Chicago in the U. S. Johnson & Johnson was praised for their promptness in the handling the crisis. Although the Tylenol market collapsed to 8% from 35% it picked up a year later but the prompt reaction through the media reduced greatly the death that could have resulted from the crisis. Therefore promptness pre-empts the likelihood of negative publicity and gives reassurance to the audience of the companies concern for their well being. (Eric Yaverbaum, Et al, p 280-283)

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