Eurozone crisis: a few crisis PR lessons

» by Marie-Estelle Hebert, November 29th, 2011 | Strategic Communications


Eurozone crisis. The buzzword of November 2011, undeniably. The EU has been stuck in a crisis for months and most commentators have analysed the EU’s woes from a strictly economic angle. While the economic angle is the most obvious, I believe it’s worthwhile drawing communications lessons too, and look at the crisis with a pair of PR goggles on. Eurozone leaders indeed could have done with a few tips borrowed from PR crisis management techniques:

1. Make sure you get your story straight, across the board.

Surely, a public display of dissension never helps in a crisis situation. Yes, that’s you Mr Sarkozy telling your UK counterpart “We are sick of you criticising us and telling us what to do.” − and that’s just the polite part of the rant;

2. Act fast.

The quicker you react, the less likely your reputation is to be tarnished. While the EU has been criticised over the past few decades for its “democratic deficit”, the EU’s image has only gotten worse over the past few months (see Guardian/ICM POLL from 23 October on the EU referendum).

In addition, one can also only imagine the lasting damages the crisis will have on the EU’s foreign policy endeavours as a soft power.

3. Always have a crisis plan − especially if you know you’re not playing by the rules (the Maastricht criteria that is).

With most eurozone countries not respecting the deficit and sovereign debt targets set in the Maastricht Treaty for a while, it’s only surprising that they have been acting like the eurozone crisis was an unexpected scenario. A typical crisis communications plan would include different scenarios and the corresponding messages and response plans.

4. Address, address, address and remember that denial is never an option.

You’re more likely to be judged on how you’re perceived to have handled a crisis rather than the reality of how you’ve managed the crisis. Lack of communications or inappropriate reporting are likely to trigger frustration, in this very case the US’s frustration, with Barack Obama criticising “the EU’s propensity for prevarication”.