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Higher management teams are the most likely to be blamed for a PR crisis by lower level staff, according to online reputation agency Igniyte.

Workers rated higher level managers (39%), lapses in online security (35%) and even their CEO as the biggest threats to causing a PR crisis for their company. More than a quarter (27%) also said that social media was a threat.

The research also found that 24% of lower level managers are aware that their company has a crisis management plan in place, but don't know what the plan involves. Just 22% said they are fully aware of the crisis plan, are aware of what it involves, and are confident their teams have been fully trained. A further 17% said their company doesn't have a crisis management strategy in place.

More than a fifth (22%) said their company has a PR crisis plan in place which the whole company knows about, with one in 10 confirming they had dedicated resources to manage anything said online about the company.

The travel, transport and leisure sectors were revealed to be the least prepared for a crisis, with 26% of managers admitting their companies didn't have a crisis management plan in place, compared the an average of 17%.

Managers in the public sector were the least confident about their organisation's ability to fend off a communications crisis, with 16% saying their organisations weren't well prepared.

Igniyte founder and director, Simon Wadsworth, said: "With the internet offering increasing transparency and scrutiny of a company and its leaders, monitoring and limiting the risk of PR crisis should be paramount to acny company's marketing strategy.

"Just one ill-judged tweet from a key executive of a high-profile brand can bring the whole company into disrepute, or just one negative comment from a disgruntled ex-employee online can cause questions to be asked about how you treat your staff.

"The effects of a crisis can be devastating, we only have to look at the recent highly-publicised crises for Volkswagen and TalkTalk to see what impact it can have on share price and reputation. Of course, you can never completely avoid a crisis, but the good news is you can considerably limit the chances of one happening."