Public Relations is a field that a lot of companies don’t really understand the importance of. It’s a relatively new field, certainly; it doesn’t have a lot of the same historical power as other disciplines like Marketing or Advertising.
It’s understandable in that respect that executives in the modern day aren’t yet aware of how important having a proper Public Relations team in your organization can be. However, that doesn’t make it smart.
Public Relations crisis are nothing to sneeze at. A crisis has the power, when not managed to correctly, to genuinely sink businesses of all sizes. Your customers are your lifeblood. If they aren’t pleased with you or your business from an economic or an ethical perspective, your business isn’t likely to last.
Crisis can only really be handled by trained Public Relations teams who have the knowledge and the skill to neutralize these crisis events and turn things around for how the organization engages with the relevant publics.
Crisis Example: Hangzhou Safari Park
One of the best examples of how having good Public Relations is important in a crisis involves the Hangzhou Safari Park in China. The Safari Park is set up in such a way as to emulate a natural African safari trip, with species from the area raised within the park’s ground. One day, three leopards escaped the safari park grounds into the greater residential area during a cleaning of their personal cages. This obviously blew up into a Public Relations crisis once the story made the news.
I’ll point out two big moments where having a trained Public Relations team could have prevented this from becoming a crisis, and the first one is right here at the start. The zoo didn’t inform the public for multiple days after the leopards escaped for fear of making a scene. This made the public livid; this was a bad move on their part that no Public Relations team would have made.
The second blunder came after the news went public. Once the jig was up, the safari park sent out animal control teams to try and locate and catch the animals so they could be put back into the park. The park kept completely hands off with the media, besides for a short apology about their silence and publicizing instructions on what to do if you encounter one of the animals.
The park came under additional fire once it was discovered that one of the leopards was mauled by the dogs they used to track them and that another was likely to starve to death, bringing accusations of unprofessionalism. This was their second mistake. To be more specific, they didn’t control the narrative. Because they kept hands-off, they had no way to control how details of the animal control team’s efforts were publicized and spun, and they built up absolutely no good will.