Haris Ahmed of Chicago Firm Pragmatium Consulting Inc. on Crisis Communication



Haris Ahmed, Chicago Consultant on PR and Crisis Communication

Haris Ahmed of Chicago management consulting firm Pragmatium Consulting Group Inc. specializes in change management and organizational leadership. He has coached over a hundred business leaders from different sectors, leveraging on his experience to provide custom-fit solutions for Pragmatium’s clientele.

Unexpected disasters happen – this is a fact that many businesses prepare for. However, as much as there are plans and contingency efforts in place, some events are so catastrophic that it can render entire businesses paralyzed. One would think that doing nothing, so as not to cause further panic, is the best option here, but even at different vantage points, this is far from the truth – doing nothing is possibly the worst reaction any business can make.

So what should businesses do in times of crisis? Generally, releasing a holding statement is one of the first things to consider. A PR professional who has experience in crisis communication would know the proper format to create this initial statement. The holding statement should contain all pertinent facts that will inform the public about the crisis. The statement must also include the company’s action plans towards solving the problem, if only to show that they are actively dealing with the problem and are on top of things. When done right, the holding statement should be enough to answer any initial inquiries about the incident, which may also buy the company more time to address the situation.

There are templates for holding statements, but should you use these? And who should be tasked with the enormous job of filling out this template when a crisis does arise? As much as firms want to create value for their shareholders, they must take caution when cutting costs, as they run risk of compromising the long-term for the short-term. Unfortunately, the benefits of having an experienced crisis communications team are not always apparent in the short-term, and thus, may end up getting sacked. It’s only when disaster strikes that businesses race to put together a crisis communications plan, and often, by then, it would already be too late – the business’ reputation is tarnished; stakeholders are confused, angry, or highly emotional; and stock prices plummet, among other things. This is one PR nightmare that could otherwise have been handled with care and decisiveness with a seasoned PR professional around.

Make no mistake; all businesses, regardless of size or industry, can benefit from PR. For start-ups getting ready to launch their minimum viable product, it’s expected that problems will arise—how big of a problem it is may ultimately be up to the public to decide whether it’s a minor setback or a full-blown disaster. Early adopters will expect to have open communication lines as well. As such, one of the best things that a company can do is to call on their PR team, and allow them to do their job as the company’s rightful spokespersons for the crisis.

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