what is a pr crisis

What Is a PR Crisis?

While you may not know what is a PR crisis, you certainly know what a crisis is, and that sets the correct tone. PR has to do with your firm’s image and reputation, which represent your calling card and allow you to continue advancing your commercial success as well as your connection to the community. Any crisis that threatens to disrupt the harmony and growth you’ve tended to so carefully in this arena can prove disastrous but experienced legal PR pros have the finesse and focus to help. 

Is It a Bump in the Road or a Full-On Crisis?

A negative Yelp review or a disgruntled client isn’t great, but it’s also not a crisis. By addressing the matter with the affected client head-on, you can effectively and efficiently resolve the issue, and you may even bolster your credibility and reputation in the process. 

If, however, the issue is far broader and has the potential to threaten your bottom line – or you have the feeling it could get to that point – it’s time to take action. 

Identifying a Crisis

A PR crisis does not have to directly relate to your business to pack a big punch. Sometimes, simply having a tenuous connection to the business or entity that started the hoopla is all that’s necessary to cause real damage. Even a case of mistaken identity can turn into a crisis. 

For example, if a firm with a name, location, or description that’s similar to your own has 

landed in seriously hot water, the public will not necessarily accurately distinguish between the two of you. In fact, the public at large isn’t always as discerning as you’d hope, and that black mark the other company earned itself can negatively affect your own reputation. 

Social Media

Further, a poorly worded Tweet or Instagram post in relation to a comment about a specific law, ruling, or case – whether it’s yours or not – can lead to significant backlash. Social media can lift you up, but it can also leave you in tatters, which makes proceeding with caution exceedingly well advised. It’s remarkable how many innocent posts incite serious PR damage that can be difficult to come back from. Take a moment before hitting send.  


Even a poorly considered ad campaign can come back to bite you, which makes working closely with an insightful Legal PR firm always in your best interest. While you may never face a PR crisis, being prepared in the event you do can provide you with invaluable peace of mind and can help keep small problems small. 

A Specific Case

Negative publicity related to a specific case can also spiral into a crisis if you don’t know how to handle it. The best path forward requires engaging in careful consideration and defaulting to reasonable responses regardless of how heated the situation may become. 

Reacting to a bad situation by blasting your detractors is a bad look all the way around, and it’s not going to do your firm any favors. You are very unlikely to win every case you take on – that’s simply not how our legal system works, and none of us has that level of control over the matter – and having the grace to respond to negative results with humility is always to your advantage. 

A Data Breach

Law firms are tasked with keeping an immense amount of information private, and any kind of data breach can prove disastrous. Employing the focus necessary to keep your data safe in the first place is key, and having a clear and decisive protocol that’s ready to be implemented at the slightest hint of a breach is the next most-important order of business. Waiting until a data breach happens and then attempting to pick up the pieces is not a plan. 

Tips to Guide You

The right time to plan for a PR crisis is well before there is even a potential problem. To help ensure that you are well prepared to handle whatever comes your way, there are several tips to keep in mind. 

Have a Legal PR Firm at the Ready

Even if you don’t have a legal PR firm on retainer, it’s an excellent idea to have a working relationship with specialists in this field. For example, consulting with a legal PR pro early on about best practices in relation to polishing your firm’s image, avoiding PR glitches, and knowing what to do in the face of a PR crisis is one of the smartest moves you can make. This early prep can save you from a host of serious PR concerns over the course of time. 

React Quickly but Not before You’ve Got a Plan

If you’ve got a PR crisis on your hands or see one coming your way, it’s time to take action. And while time is of the essence, acting swiftly for the sake of acting swiftly won’t work to your advantage. Taking the time you need to quickly formulate a reasonable plan that aligns with your firm’s values and swiftly reacting in response to this assessment will serve you well. 

Assess the Actual Situation

If one of your partners, associates, or staff members runs to you with an announcement that amounts to – the sky is falling – it’s only natural to panic. The most important issue at this point, however, is gathering all the relevant information before taking action, which can backfire if you don’t know exactly what you’re up against. 

While getting out in front of trouble can work to your advantage, there are too many cases where companies were attempting to do just that and, in the process, only drew negative attention to themselves and made the matter worse. Make sure you have all the information you need before pulling the trigger on a response or solution. 

Have a Response Team in Place

It’s an excellent idea to have a response team in place that will fly into action at the slightest hint of a PR problem. This team should include – at a minimum – a head officer who understands your firm’s bottom line, a staff member who understands what makes your firm tick, an IT member who is well acquainted with your firm’s technology, and a savvy pro from a legal PR firm who has the insight and focus to help cut through the media gauntlet in protection or your firm’s hard-earned image and reputation. 

Alert Your Entire Team

If you have a crisis on your hands, presenting a united front is critical, and you can’t accomplish this if everyone on your team isn’t kept in the loop. The last thing you need is for an employee to be interviewed by the media only to relay that they really have no idea what’s going on. 

Everyone on your team – regardless of the role they play – should be alerted to the problem, should know the details they need to know, and should be well aware of the strategy you’re employing moving forward. Picking and choosing whom you tell things at your firm will only lead to internal gossip, anxiety, and hard feelings that can foster disloyalty. The stronger your team, the better prepared you’ll be to successfully handle a PR crisis. 

Craft an Authentic Response

Ultimately, you’ll need to respond to the PR crisis you’re facing, and your response should not only be well-written but also authentic. We’ve all read corporate apologies that clearly have an agenda other than actually apologizing, and they fall flat. Just because you find yourself in the middle of a PR crisis does not mean that you’ve done anything wrong, but you should express your genuine concern for any related problems and issues that others have experienced as a result. Further, if your firm did misstep, acknowledging the fact and doubling down on your commitment not to let any such error happen again may be the best approach. 

It’s always well-advised to consult with a trusted legal PR professional before sending a response out into the world that may be interpreted very differently than you intended. This is one of the most important roles that PR expertise can play in your journey toward conquering a PR crisis.

A Talented PR Pro Can Help You Avoid a PR Crisis

When it comes to your firm’s standing in the community, the best practice is having solid guidelines in place that help ensure you never face a PR glitch or crisis. It’s important to recognize, however, that these matters are often beyond our control, and no amount of thoughtful effort on your part can guarantee you’ll completely avoid a PR conundrum. 

At Newsroom PR, our skilled legal PR specialists have an imposing array of experience successfully guiding firms like yours toward advantageous resolutions that leave them with their shining reputations intact. We are on your side and here to help, so please don’t wait to reach out to understand more about what a pr crisis is, and contact us online or call us at 213-422-2738 for more information about what we can do for you today.