Preparing for a technology PR crisis

Would you be a Sandra Bullock or a George Clooney?
Technology PR folk should live in fear.

Hold on, we don't normally write stuff like this on the Stone Junction blog do we? Isn't it all normally about encouraging creativity and doing business without fear?

But fear has a place in PR and in business. Commander Chris Hadfield, the astronaut that tweeted a video of himself performing David Bowie's Space Oddity, is someone we have written about on this blog before. 

I his recent memoir, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, he wrote:

"Don’t fall into lazy, head-in-the-sand optimism, but dare instead to ask yourself: what’s the next thing that can kill me (in one sense or another)?

"This can prompt better preparation for every conceivable eventuality, which means not just rehearsing yourself to a level of thorough competency, but also practising being versatile enough to improvise in the face of novel and unforeseen issues."

These are words that make sense in a continued professional development context. But they have particular meaning with reference to crisis management in technology PR. As marketing and PR people we should be asking ourselves, 'what's the next thing that can kill me’?

The answer is the next crisis we should be planning for and its likelihood and severity determines the action we should take.

Let's presume that you've decided your next crisis is a grade one public disaster. It hasn’t happened yet but it might; how should you prepare?

I would recommend:

  • Choose the three key messages that will help counter the crisis. These will become your points of refuge throughout the campaign.
  • Identify, train and brief your key spokespeople
  • Prepare a press statement based on your key points
  • Get a 'dark' version of your web site ready featuring the statement in the press section and reflected elsewhere if necessary. If it really is defcon one, it may need to be on your home page. 
  • Prepare social media messages based around questions you are likely to be asked by customers and press. 
  • If you have any degree of control over when the news is released, see if there is a day on the horizon that is likely to minimise the disruption it causes. Is there a day you know will be too busy for your news to make an impact? 

This can work on a macro scale as well - if you know that only a few journalists will be interested, can you put the news out on a day they will all be busy with a trade show for instance?

So, my advice to technology PR folk is to live in fear. And I think Commander Hadfield would agree. It will definitely make life easier in the long run.

Image courtesy of  siraphat on

Zafar Jamati

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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