Crisis PR: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Julie Talenfeld, President, BoardroomPR

Another day, another sexual harassment accusation. As of late, it seems as though it has become an unfortunate norm. As brave victims step forward, the accused, and the companies they work for, are left scrambling to recover their tarnished reputations. With investigations pending and answers wanted, crisis communication is mandatory.

Although the problem impacts more than just Hollywood, we can see how it has led to the firing of TV news anchors such as Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose. There is even talk of shutting down shows such as House of Cards, which can result in the loss of jobs for entire production crews because of the alleged actions of a bad seed.

In the rush of a crisis, great PR professionals keep their cool because they know the time to prepare for a crisis is before it happens. The best of the best already have a plan in place. When you are under pressure to get the message out quickly and effectively, there are a few things to consider:

With the new age of marketing, you want to take advantage of all available platforms. This includes traditional and social media. Official statements should be posted on your channels. As a PR rep for the company of an accused employee, you want to make sure people know this type of behavior is not tolerated, an investigation is underway and proper action is being taken. With the amount of fake news and citizen journalism out there, you need quick, accurate updates as the fast-moving story lines change. 

Senior executives need to be trained on what to say, what not to say and how to say it. One way to control this is with a news conference. You can get your news out to a lot of people in a limited amount of time. With a bunch of moving parts, it can get hectic, but there are four main things to remember.

Did you draft a statement? Let people know that the accusation has come to your attention, you’ve began an investigation and you are taking the situation very seriously. 

Who are you going to invite? You should have an updated media list on file so you are not scrambling to find contacts last minute. National TV is a given, but also consider radio and print. Is there anyone who specifically covers the industry you are in? They should be on the list. 

Did you give enough notice? It takes time to get a crew together and out to your location. Consider online streaming of the conference for those who cannot attend.

Who is speaking? Who will be the face of your company? It should be someone who is viewed as a leader. They need to be prepared to have hard hitting questions thrown at them. If an investigation is still pending, make sure they don’t give away any impeding information.

You can’t hide behind unlawful and inappropriate actions. One person can ruin the reputation of an entire company and snowball a negative impact on everyone. With the right amount of time, the innocent can recover, but the process is a detailed one that has to be executed properly.

About the Author: Julie Talenfeld is the president of BoardroomPR, an integrated marketing and PR firm based in South Florida. She can be reached at jtalenfeld@boardroompr.com

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