August 04, 2020 Article

Crisis Management 101: Key Insights from the World of Public Relations

A recent interview with Karen Kirchenbauer and Bill Herbst, two public relations experts.

By Nathan Hatcher

A crisis can present itself in numerous ways—product recalls, environmental contaminations, and negative social media posts, to name just a few. What are the critical issues to address when your client or business finds itself in a crisis? This article addresses those issues. It is adapted from an interview I recently conducted with two public relations experts, Karen Kirchenbauer and Bill Herbst. Karen and Bill are vice presidents and partners at SeyferthPR, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. SeyferthPR is a leading Midwest public relations agency, serving clients across the country in crisis communications and reputation management, ranging from environmental contamination to product recalls in a broad range of government and not-for-profit industries. Together, both Karen and Bill bring more than 40 years of experience in public relations (PR), as well as media relations.

Our goal during the interview was to identify and explain the primary public relations concerns when managing a crisis. We first approached this generally, focusing on the initial steps and best practices that would apply in most crisis management situations. While there are both proactive and reactive elements to crisis management, we began by discussing the reactive elements. Thereafter, we applied those best practices in a hypothetical scenario in which negative social media comments regarding a new pharmaceutical begin to build. We also discussed emerging public relations issues in the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, as well as proactive measures that businesses should take to prepare for a crisis. The full audio recording of the interview can be found on the American Bar Association’s Sound Advice webpage here.

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