If the words ‘PR crisis’ send a shiver down your spine, you’re not alone. When something major threatens a company, be it a slew of customer complaints or a serious executive mistake, the PR wing has the unenviable task of weathering negative public opinion that could potentially have a permanent impact. Crisis management doesn’t have to be messy, though. What you need is a cool, level-headed approach and a structured plan of action to help you turn the situation as much in your favour as possible.
Media on the other hand have a nose for crisis. They are groomed to keep an eye out for crisis situations and can at times sensationalise it. And any such negative press can leave an indelible impression in the minds of the reader causing irreparable damage to a brand’s reputation.
Here, we offer up our best practices for tackling a PR crisis of any kind.
- Evaluate the situation – While you may be tempted to go into problem-solving mode right away, the biggest favour you can do your company is to take a step back and assess things. What is the sequence in which events are likely to play out? What are your best-case and worst-case scenarios? What immediate action can you take to contain the damage? This will help you concentrate your efforts where they are most needed.
- Designate first responders – When a crisis hits, the last thing you want is to be caught unprepared. Identify your first responder team in advance, be it customer relations or marketing, and have them send out your crucial initial statement.
- Be proactive in your response – Speaking of the initial statement, it’s always best to send it out before the media has to ask for it. It’s also important to note here that your initial statement is not a substitute for a solution. It is simply an acknowledgment of the problem that serves to reassure the public that you are working on it. This way, you buy some time to investigate the matter internally and also have a safeguard against the initial wave of shock and ill-will.
- Be open and honest – If your company has made a mistake, the biggest favour you can do yourself is to own up. And when you do so, do not dilute your admission with excuses or qualifying statements. The public will respect you more if you admit that you failed, and will be more willing to accept the reparations you make.
- Don’t overreact – While it’s important to acknowledge the gravity of the situation, it’s equally important to not make it a bigger deal than it actually is. Sounding excessively upset in your statement or repeatedly apologising won’t help your case, and may even hurt it by portraying you as a company that lacks control. Acknowledge the problem, apologise gracefully, state your remedial intentions and move on.
- Keep monitoring the situation – It’s vital to have a handle on all inbound and outbound communications related to the crisis. Keep a close watch on what media outlets are saying about it as well as how customers are talking about it online. Even one negative article can significantly hurt your reputation, so it’s important to stay on top of such content and respond to it as quickly as possible.
- Review and learn – Once the crisis has been dealt with, conduct a review with your team. What went well? What could you have done better? What were the unanticipated elements that you had to face? Accordingly, you can determine what changes the company needs to make to prevent such crises from happening again.
Everyone makes mistakes, and you may well find yourself fielding agitated public reactions to a company error someday. What’s important in these cases is to proactively ensure that crisis resolution is achieved while assuring the public that you have this and any future incidents under control. And if you need a little help with striking that fine balance, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Star Squared PR. We have decades of experience helping companies maintain solid public images, and we’d be happy to help you craft the best response to any situation.