Lessons and PR Advice Still Need to be Heeded
The past year has seen a range of ongoing big PR crises and those that seemingly came out of nowhere. In some cases, it seems it is getting harder and harder for a person, company or organization to manage a crisis or survive with their reputation intact.
Some of these crises were self-inflicted: like Prince Andrew’s BBC interview about his alleged role in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and Harvey Weinstein’s interview with The New York Post about his role in #metoo and upcoming criminal trial. These interviews should never have been done – in the case of Prince Andrew he reportedly ignored the advice of his PR consultant.
So, in an era where it seems that almost every bad word, big faux pas or bad behavior and alleged criminal action is amplified by the internet, social media and cable TV, crisis PR may need a bit of a revamp.
Look at the following ongoing crises: Boeing 737 Max, opioids, the gun industry, Nike and coach Alberto Salazar, Juul and vaping, Facebook and big tech. These were ongoing issues that were eventually going to become a full-blown crisis. Subsequently, the PR team now needs a seat in the executive board room when a business decision that could backfire is being made – such as before a rollout or an announcement. Just ask Boeing.
Another point on PR crises worth considering: when you appear to be wrong or have made bad decisions, or the public or a big part of the public is against you, you may want to own up to them. Think of the college admissions scandal defendants, the gun industry and the ongoing mass shootings, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, President Trump and the GOP, and former Vice President Biden and his son’s entanglement in Ukraine.
The 10 Things You Now Need to Do in a PR crisis?
- What could go wrong with a rollout? Have the PR team in on things from the start — long before any initiative goes public. It could be your next crisis.
- Keep the crisis message simple; change it as needed to keep up with developments.
- Use the web and all social media channels wisely. Just because President Trump tweets non-stop doesn’t mean you have to do the same.
- Have one designated spokesperson with one consistent message. Do NOT have more than one spokesperson. If the spokesman gets in trouble, find a new one. See Rudy Giuliani here.
- Hire a crisis PR agency and keep them on retainer before a crisis. They do this for a living. Listen to their advice or end up like Prince Andrew.
- Keep up with the client’s use of email, texts and social media. Keep them on the reservation.
- If your client is flogged in the press daily, pick a select few outlets to give access to or hold some on or off the record briefings.
- If you promise the press something, deliver or the press will never forget. They’re like elephants that way.
- The local media takes big stories personally so don’t forget them even as a crisis goes national.
- Try to avoid no comment. Yes, sometimes you have to do it but it looks bad. Think of a way to comment without commenting. It is still an issue.
Remember, how you handle a rollout or a business or personal decision at the beginning may end up being your next crisis.
About the Author: Andrew Blum is a PR consultant and media trainer and principal of AJB Communications. He has directed PR for professional services and financial services firms, NGOs, agencies and other clients. As a PR executive, and formerly as a journalist, he has been involved on both sides of the media aisle in some of the most media intensive crises of the past 25 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @ajbcomms