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Four Key Differences Between Crisis PR And Traditional PR


By Evan Nierman, founder and CEO of Red Banyan, an international crisis communications firm, and author of Amazon bestseller Crisis Averted.

When it comes to public relations (PR) and crisis communications, all agencies are not created equal. The differences are substantial, even though there is overlap. Choosing which type of firm to help with your company’s needs can be challenging if you aren’t familiar with the fine points.

Businesses that are simply trying to get the word out about their company and drum up new business will be best served by a firm that offers traditional public relations and marketing services. These agencies can help you create a steady stream of content for your website and social media channels and pitch stories about your business to the media.

Companies that are experiencing fallout from a social media meltdown or internal scandal will do best with an agency that specializes in crisis management and reputation rehabilitation. Knowing what to do when bad publicity spirals out of control and online trolls attack is important if you want to nip a nasty narrative in the bud before an unfavorable storyline takes root.

Both traditional and crisis PR agencies are effective, but their missions are different. Here are five key differences between these two types of PR agencies:

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1. Traditional public relations firms are well-versed in promoting organizations that are typically not accustomed to handling negative publicity. They help organizations that do not have a clear understanding of what is newsworthy and do not know how to get attention for the positive things their organization has accomplished. They work at a measured pace, taking forward steps that cover a lot of bases and grow your brand.

Crisis PR firms react with lightning speed to take charge of a scenario that could damage a business’s reputation if the narrative is allowed to move forward unchecked. Crisis communications experts work quickly to take control of the narrative and shape it in the most favorable light. Crisis PR firms work with businesses, law firms, nonprofits and individuals.

2. Traditional PR firms operate in a formulaic manner, moving slowly and methodically to build a brand and create an image using traditional means. Establishing brand recognition takes time and requires careful thought and persistence. Traditional public relations agencies employ similar PR techniques for most clients, focusing on ways to provide their clients with as much positive exposure as possible.

Crisis PR agencies are dynamic and work quickly to swiftly prevent sticky situations from morphing into full-blown disasters. Time is of the essence. Their goal is to minimize damage at all times and identify potential reputation disasters that could arise.

3. Traditional public relations firms tend to play it safe using tried-and-true techniques that are more universal.

Crisis PR firms craft personalized strategies for each client, taking into consideration their unique circumstances, challenges and industry risk.

4. Traditional PR agencies focus their campaigns on standard talking points that they roll out with measured precision. Their strength is in their contemplative, cautious approach that is focused on covering as many bases as possible.

Crisis communications agencies are known for their razor-sharp messaging and strategic communications. These agencies craft precise wording to address mission-critical challenges. Their strength is in their speed and tact.

While public relations is an overarching term for these firms, the two types operate very differently, and both shine in different situations. Though a traditional firm can get your brand the attention it deserves as you’re trying to get name recognition, you need to be wary of potential crises that could tear your entire brand down. It’s best to recognize your vulnerabilities and grow your brand in tandem. Consider your industry, your risk factors and your long-term goals. Who do you want in your corner?

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