Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR
No matter your industry, your business is sure to- at some point- face some kind of public relations crisis. The way you respond can either give you a hefty brand image boost, or be a disastrous setback that alienates your customer base and other stakeholders.
In the age of the internet, when news can go viral in an instant, organizations must utilize all available platforms to respond to any PR crisis quickly and efficiently. To help you on your way, here are some golden rules to add to your PR toolbox.
1. Take responsibility
Whatever you do, don’t try to cover up your pending PR disaster, as this will only worsen the situation. Instead, manage the disaster by taking responsibility, reacting immediately, and responding quickly to feedback.
Instead of taking the argument public, acknowledge people’s concerns and questions, and respond to the right conversations. Write a press release, post on social media, go public in a way that controls the situation and makes your message a visible one.
2. Be proactive and transparent
In the real-time world of social media, there are critics everywhere; reputation management is more important than ever and can be botched with one wrong move. The tenets of any crisis communication include proactiveness, transparency, and accountability. In action, this looks like acknowledging the incident, accepting responsibility, and apologizing.
3. Get ahead of the story
Everyone remembers the disastrous year that United Airlines had, starting with the clip of a man being dragged off an overbooked flight. A savvy CEO, or at least one guided by an on-the-ball PR team, would have been tweeting, texting and even sending smoke signals the minute the story broke.
Getting ahead of the story is the strategy, sooner rather than later!
4. Prepare for social media backlash
The worst thing a firm can do is ignore the possibility of a firestorm igniting on social media. Smaller groups can be more guilty of this, especially those rare ones without a social media presence. Still, just because an organization isn’t marketing on social media does not mean their customers will not use the public platforms to keep them in check if something goes wrong.
5. Be human
Saying that “you’ll look into it” to buy time doesn’t actually make anyone feel better. Instead, admitting that you are deeply saddened by an issue and will work to make things better is vital. Then, immediately share how policies will be put in place to prevent the disaster from happening again. The key is to move fast before people lose faith in your brand.
6. Apologize first, then take action
Extending a genuine apology is the only way you can move forward; on the flipside, avoiding doing so only adds fuel to the fire and delays changing the narrative. After issuing a public apology, your firm must then offer a call to action; do something substantial to show that you are changing your ways and moving forward in a genuine way.