Calgary PR Crisis Management

When something good happens with your business, you are lucky if you get a single mention in the news. But, when something bad happens, you and or your business will probably get mentioned 50 times in the media. These numbers are not exaggerated, they come from a database of every published story in Canadian newspapers.

Here are some negative news numbers for Calgary Restaurants and Nightclubs. These articles were published in the Calgary Herald, the Calgary Sun, the Globe and Mail and others. In a minority of these articles, the businesses had no Calgary PR Crisis Management plan.

These counts do not include TV.

  • 279 articles mention Calgary Nightclub Stabbing
  • 1,140 mention Calgary Nightclub Murder
  • 418 mention Calgary Nightclub Accident
  • 1,368 mention Calgary Restaurant Accident with about 40% of them
    being negative.
  • 1,385 mention Calgary Restaurant Warning
  • 898 mention Calgary restaurant fraud (mostly dues to tax fraud)

As a restaurant, bar or nightclub owner, you are more than aware of the risks of running a business. You may also be aware that the media isn’t interested in your feelings when something goes wrong. Bad news brings the media many of their viewers; your bad news is a news’ revenue source – it’s just a fact.

 Calgary PR Crisis Management

Calgary PR Crisis Examples

Before Matterhorn: A Calgary nightclub was faced with a PR crisis – someone was murdered in the club. The club had done everything it could to ensure the safety of its patrons but the situation was now out of control. The club owner handled the media to the best of his abilities; he and his staff cooperated with the police but no one had thought about a media plan. On the TV news that night and for the whole next day the story was about the murder. One station’s reporter spoke of the murder and how two suspects were in police custody. Unfortunately, simultaneous to the mentioning of the two suspects in custody, the TV network cut in a shot of the club manager and an employee in the back of a police car giving their statements. Calgary viewers were left to think that the murderers were the club’s staff.

With Matterhorn: Turn the clock ahead a few years and David Howse of Matterhorn PR was representing that same club when a stabbing occurred. A flurry of media calls occurred which David handled. He briefed the media, advised the club’s management of the game plan, gave a media tour of the club’s security features, and handled some tough on-camera questioning. The result on the evening news was a story about how best to help the Calgary police solve this crime. The club itself was spared much embarrassment and bad publicity.


Does your business have a PR crisis game plan?

How will you handle:

  • The victims and their families
  • Public inquiries (face to face, phone, email)
  • Media Inquiries including on-camera interviews
  • Social Media
  • Your website
  • Misinformation/rumors
  • Other important stakeholders

The answers to these points can’t easily be predicted let alone memorized for a canned response. What will the victims and their families say about you and your business? Will they sue, ask for a donation to a fundraiser to support the victim and/or their family, or say something that will catch you off guard?

Each of these points needs to be prepared for and, for the points you can’t prepare for, you need an independent representative who can act

in your best interest.  This person needs to be objective enough to understand what the best possible outcome is and ensure immediate future actions are inline with the crisis management plan. Warren Buffet once said,


“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”


The success of handling a PR crisis is measured by the public’s perception immediately after the crisis begins (within the first hour and absolutely in the first 12 hours). This perception can be influenced by how fast you can respond, what material you are using to respond, and how many people you reach.  News media can help or hinder your response. How you manage your social media channels can equally help or hinder your response. In injury and death scenarios, police and medical reports tend to be out of your control but your cooperation with the police can only help you as can your ability to provide assistance before medical help arrives. All of these areas are opportunities to show that you are taking responsibility and care during the crisis.

What are the steps you will take short term and long term to protect your business’ image? What do you have in place now to show you have taken reasonable steps to prevent a crisis from occurring in the first place? Is their anything you do that is above the industry standard – for example, do all of your staff take the Respect in the Workplace course? Have you designated a person to be the single point of contact for crisis management?


PR Crisis Management Tips (if you decide to go it alone):

  1. Have a crisis plan, this should include the phone number of good lawyer. This may include a pre-designed website homepage that you can run with the second a crisis occurs.
  2. Make sure all messages—to the press, consumers and on social media—are exactly the same.
  3. Ensure that your messaging for the media, on your social media and what your employees are saying is exactly the same.
  4. It is often better to be the first to speak – but ensure what you say is accurate and that the speaker has all of the facts. Don’t let others create the story and force you on the defensive. Run your statements by a lawyer to make sure your wording will be understood as intended.
  5. Record all activities of who you or your employees are making statement to, the content of those conversations, and when those statements were made.
  6. Ensure all employees are briefed on your crisis plan.
  7. Know the angle each media will take. Is the reporter you are speaking with interested in appealing to fear and sensationalism, public interest, or just the facts?
  8. Know the difference between an issue and a crisis and how to respond appropriately


Hire a PR Company that has nightclub crisis management experience in Calgary.

Here’s our offer to you:

For $50 per month we will be your on-call public relations crisis management team. If a crisis does occur, we will manage all PR related aspects of the crisis for no additional fee! We will handle all media calls, draft press releases, consult with you on all external communications (social media, web, email, other) related to the event, work with your team where needed, and even represent you for TV, radio, and newspaper interviews.



David Howse

#201 – 3916 64 Ave SE
Calgary, AB T2C 2B4

For more on Calgary PR Crisis Management visit:

Crisis Communication on Wikipedia

Business Insider article on Crisis Management