5 Tips: How to Select a Crisis Management Consultant

Choose the right crisis management consultant with this advice from an expert

This is a self-serving blog post that’s going to save you a lot of time, cost and heartache. Fair trade?

First, what IS a crisis management consultant, at least in the world of PR? Well, the best analogy we’ve ever seen is that of firefighting. If you want to prevent fires, you get a fire inspector to visit. If you want to respond to fires, you also call the Fire Department, the part with all the bells and sirens. So it is with crisis prevention and crisis response – a complete crisis management practice includes people expert in both crisis prevention and response.

How do you know you’ve found a crisis management consultant who’s right for you? Look for:

  1. Are they specialists, is crisis management (in all its forms) all they do? Traditional PR is QUITE different and expertise in proactive, traditional PR does not give practitioners the experience or training needed to be crisis management consultants.
  2. What is their pricing model? Crisis management tends to be one of the best-paid specialties in public relations. Agencies that have actual office space with “brick and mortar” to support tend to have higher rates and also like to insist on minimum monthly retainers. Smaller, independent and/or virtual (no office space) agencies can charge less for equally skilled practitioners but may lack the depth of other resources offered by a larger firm. Top practitioners in the field tend to command hourly rates in the range of $350-700 hourly.
  3. How nimble are they? One quick indication – how quickly do they respond when you first submit an email inquiry or leave a voicemail after hours? Minutes? Hours? The next day? When retained, can they respond to client needs, 24/7, in all the geographic areas of interest to the client?
  4. Do they demonstrate an understanding of the full scope of crisis management activities? Some agencies now seem to be so focused on the Internet side of communications – which, of course, is critical – that they forget how much messaging still needs to be done in-person, by phone or by email directly with stakeholders. They also rely on reputation management tools that only measure the impact of reputation online, while the only way to fully understand how your reputation has been impacted is to directly ask your stakeholders.
  5. Do they have references relevant to your needs, to include from some long-term clients? I have actually been surprised at the number of times I’ve heard, from those we consider to be potential crisis management consultants/subcontractors for our agency, that “our clients are confidential, so we can’t give out references.” Bull. The sensitive legal considerations for many crisis situations do, in fact, preclude giving out that client’s contact information, but in our experience there are always clients willing to speak to one of our new business prospects if we give them a heads up in advance.

If you get those answers answered to your satisfaction, you’ll be an important step forward in ensuring you’re not disappointed with your selection of a crisis management consultant.

Jonathan Bernstein
Founder & Chairman