The Ball’s in Your Court; How to Handle a PR Crisis in a Social Media Crazed World

On Tuesday night, I attended the Publicity Club of New England’s first 2015 event—Calming a Crisis in a Sports-Crazed World.

It was an engaging event with a lot of great takeaways. One of my favorite parts was hearing the insider stories from the panelists. The panel gave great insight on how to manage a crisis as a PR professional, especially in the fast-paced social media and 24/7 news cycle world we live in.

In order to successfully handle a crisis, organizations have to be prepared in advance, with core values, procedures, and spokespeople established. Expectations are high for PR professionals and organizations during a crisis, so you have to execute flawlessly, while keeping up with the pace of the news and social media.

The event was moderated by Alex Reimer (@AlexReimer1), sports columnist for Boston Herald and BostInno, and the panelists were two of Boston’s best sports PR and marketing pros.

  • Jim Delaney, president, Activate Sports & Entertainment, @Activate
  • Heather Walker, PR director, Boston Celtics, @Celtics


Both panelists discussed how they manage their organizations, players and social media accounts during a crisis, and Reimer was able to offer a journalist’s perspective. Hot topics of the night included the NFL’s domestic violence issues and the very recent Patriots #DeflateGate.

  • Balance of PR and Legal – We all know that “no comment” doesn’t fly, but sometimes when it is a legal issue an organization has no choice. Delaney emphasized how important it is for PR and legal to work together for crisis communications in order to effectively handle the situation at hand.
  • Stick to the Organization’s Core Values – During a crisis it is important to be true to your brand and stick to the organization’s core values. Walker discussed how the Celtics brand is very transparent and all about the truth. In a crisis they wait for the facts, rather than making a hasty statement just to get it out fast.
  • Don’t Let a Brush Fire Turn into a Wild Fire – News gets out fast and you have to get in front of it and deal with it. The 1 a.m. #DeflateGate tweet is a perfect example of how social media takes news to the next level. The principles of crisis communications haven’t changed, but the speed of it has. You no longer have lag time—the media and public wants an immediate response.
  • Not a Matter of If, but When – Crises will happen, so put a plan in place in advance that you can execute when it happens. Everyone internally should know their role. Outside relationships with the media can make all the difference—they should know who to call when something happens.
  • Be Proactive – Walker pointed out the importance of being proactive by training and placing the spokespeople of your organization in places they can succeed. It can make all the difference knowing who’s better for what media outlet (i.e. TV, radio); and who can speak to what topic.

Overall it was a great event with key learnings and examples on how to handle a PR crisis. With all the recent media frenzy’s, it only makes me wonder what big crisis will break next?

This post was contributed by 451 Marketing Account Coordinator Kristin Foley

Twitter @451Marketing