Risk management for PR professionals

Good PR isn’t about spin, it’s about strategy. Developing one that’s right for your client takes time and energy, as well as a canny ability to think on your feet.

It’s about risk, too. Ask the PR people behind any disgraced celeb and they’ll tell you reputations are hard-won and easily lost. There’s a lot at stake and a lot can go wrong – for you and your client.

Simple mistakes can snowball into situations that put your client’s reputation on the line. Yours too, for that matter, and you don’t want to be the reason things go from bad to worse.

Worryingly, today’s ‘blame culture’ means the temptation to whip out a negligence claim against you can be all too strong – especially for high-profile clients with seemingly bottomless pockets.

This spells expensive trouble, especially for small PR agencies and freelance consultants. Can you afford to fight any allegations? More to the point, can you afford not to?

Put a few simple PR risk management measures in place and you might not have to make the choice.

Kiss and tell

So what kind of risks are PR professionals up against these days?

Social media rules. Copyright and privacy and electronic communications regulations. A constant demand for fresh, engaging digital content. There’s a lot to stay on top of.  

In an ever-changing digital landscape, it’s important you stay on your toes. PR consultants and agencies are vulnerable to more professional risks than ever before.

Typical problems we’ve helped with look a lot like these:

  • A PR agency writes a press release. A third party feels they’ve been defamed and threatens to sue the agency’s client. They in turn threaten to sue the agency.
  • A freelance PR consultant looks after a client’s socials. They post a Tweet including an image they don’t have permission to use. The original owner of the image sees it and claims it’s copyright infringement.
  • A small PR agency tasked with writing a link-building piece lifts the wrong statistics when quoting their client’s study. The mistake is picked up but not before the article has gone live. The client is none too impressed and threatens to sue the agency for professional negligence.

From hero to zero to hero

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure – which puts PR risk management in the spotlight.

To help avoid trouble, a simple strategy is to make an assessment of your risks, put some precautionary measures in place, and limit your chances of a claim in the first place. Easy, right?

Right. So with that in mind, here are some reputation-saving tips worth bearing in mind. If you don’t already have a self-preservation plan in place, try the following before signing up to your next contract.

5 PR risk management tips

  1. Lay down some groundwork. Find out what your client wants from you before you start work for them, including any relevant deadlines and/or objectives. You’ll then be in a good position to gauge whether or not you can deliver, on time and to spec. Be honest/realistic about this and be prepared to say ‘no’ if needs be.
  2. Get your strategies approved. You might be buzzing with bright ideas, but they’re only any good if you communicate them to your client. Brief them on the ins and outs of your strategy so they can let you know – sooner rather than later – if there’s anything they’re unhappy with.
  3. Communicate clearly and often. Keeping in touch with your client throughout a project is crucial, especially if you work remotely. Giving regular updates and asking for feedback means you can deal with problems when they arise – instead of allowing them to get out of hand.
  4. Choose your words carefully. Careless slip-ups can cost good money to fix – especially if you’re paying for them out of your own pocket. Double-check your work and get the final stage (and any last-minute amendments) signed-off by your client. It’s a well-accepted legal precedent that clients accept final responsibility for your work once it’s signed off.
  5. Check any conditions. Professional indemnity insurance for PR professionals is increasingly seen as ‘best practice’ and many clients will ask you to have it. Even if they don’t, it’s definitely worth investing in. It proves to your clients you’re professional, sure, but it also protects you, your business, your reputation and your bank balance.
  6. Keep up with social media rules and regulations. Because they’re always changing. You’ll need to be especially careful when it comes to influencers and endorsements.

And the show’s not over yet

No doubt you’re out on the road a lot. Visiting clients, attending events and what-not. Probably taking some expensive equipment with you too, phones, laptops, tablets – all things that are essential to you and your business.

If any of those valuables get lost, damaged or stolen, you’re going to need a back-up plan. Portable equipment insurance is exactly the back-up you need.

Then there’s the info that’s on your equipment. You’ll need to protect that too. If you get hacked and lose contact details for clients and their customers or top-secret information about their upcoming work, it’ll cost you both in more ways than one.

Cyber insurance is there to help you back on your feet after a cyber-attack or data breach and avoid any embarrassment.

Thumbs up

We’re the CIPR‘s insurance broker of choice, so we’re well placed to give you expert help and advice on anything PR-insurance related.

Click on the link for more information about PR consultants’ insurance. Or feel free to give us a call on 0345 561 0320.

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