Proactive public relations are when a company works to always stay ahead of any potential negative publicity. This gives them the change to control the narrative a bit more and shows they are being transparent with their publics. Reactive public relations is, essentially, the opposite, it is having to respond once negative publicity is already out there. For example, this year Facebook has had to respond to privacy concerns and the publicity that came with the Cambridge Analytical scandal. Many media outlets reported dissatisfaction with Mark Zuckerberg’s slow response to speaking out publicly. They have had to work hard to try and overcome this negative publicity.
Companies need to be prepared for both. They should work to always be proactive, when possible, however they should also be prepared and have a plan in place to react to negative publicity quickly and efficiently. Companies can never 100% predict the public or their employees and sometimes things happen that lead to the press before the heads of the company are even aware, therefore a plan is essential so that the company can respond timely, effectively and properly.