What to do when you and your company’s reputation is at risk
Companies that have faced a public relation crisis often find reputations that may have taken years or even decades to build can be destroyed in just moments. In some cases, a single event or incident can completely alter the public’s perception of a brand. Taking steps to remedy and minify the damage is crucial to maintaining a company’s position in the eyes of the public.
If you are reading this, you may be experiencing a PR crisis of your own, or you may be researching how to avoid one. We believe that every organization should develop a Crisis Management Plan so that your team is prepared for this eventuality. However, if you are faced with a PR crisis and do not currently have a plan in place; here are the steps you should take.
Put someone in charge and build your team
If a crisis is identified, someone should be designated as the crisis manager. This person should be responsible for preparing the crisis fact sheet. If a crisis communications team does not exist, the crisis manager should form one. The crisis communications team should include all resources you may need to call upon in the case of a crisis. This typically includes the top-decision maker, your spokesperson or someone designated to speak to the media, division heads/upper management, and your legal expert. The team should also include anyone in charge of communication, including consultants.
Understand the situation
It is important to gather all the facts and to document them in a crisis fact sheet that can be shared with stakeholders. The crisis fact sheet should include a summary of all pertinent facts including the people involved, the scope and nature of the crisis, and the damage or potential damage caused by the crisis.
How to respond before you have a prepared response
You may find yourself in a situation where you are being asked for a response before you have all of the facts. Although it may seem appropriate not to respond without all the information, it is important that you handle such situations carefully. While gathering information, never issue a statement saying “No Comment” as it may come off as evasive. Rather, be honest and state that your organization is still in the process of assessing the situation and that you will be issuing a response as soon as you have all of the information.
Take Responsibility, don’t attempt to “cover-up.”
Once you have identified all of the key facts, assume responsibility for the situation and develop an action plan. Never try to “cover-up” anything. Attempts to conceal facts or hide the extent of a problem will typically lead to a much bigger problem, as the public’s trust will entirely be lost if the attempts ever came to light. The most important thing is to take responsibility and be accountable, transparent, and proactive.
Your action plan will depend on the nature of the crisis involved but addresses all of the steps you will take to correct the problem, who will be responsible, and a timeframe for execution.
For example, if your company suffered a crisis where a high-level employee was involved in something morally questionable or even illegal, you may take action such as firing that individual to distance the company from the offending party.
However, if you are a restaurant that has just failed a state health inspection, you will need to ensure that controls are in place to prevent any repeat occurrences and if necessary, bring in new management.
Rather than getting into a public argument or be defensive, always acknowledge the concerns of the public in a caring, heartfelt, and honest way. Writing and distributing a press release, posting on your website, and posting on social media can help control the situation and show the public that you have acknowledged the problem and are correcting it.
Don’t just react – Act
Nothing will hurt your company’s reputation more than promising a plan to change and then not executing it. If the public sees you holding up your pledge, your company’s image can already begin to repair itself. If they do not, then your attempts at correcting the situation will not appear to be genuine, and the public will be skeptical of any further statements.
If possible, get ahead of the story
Sometimes you might be aware that something is wrong with your company or organization, and you may have some time to get ahead of the story by being proactive and taking action right away. Make sure you have all the details of the incident(s) and list all the activities performed to rectify the problem. It looks good to the public if you can demonstrate that a problem has been corrected before they were even made aware of it.
Be prepared for social media and online backlash
You can expect a backlash on social media. We recommend that you temporarily limit social media communications to a member of the crisis management team. Seemingly innocuous posts become targets for both a concerned public who want answers and online trolls who may want to cause problems.
After the storm
After the crisis has passed, put together a post-crisis summary report. It should include the cause of the crisis, extent, and tone of media coverage, suggested improvements in the crisis response process, ways to implement those changes, and possible alterations to company policy and procedures.
If your company has suffered a public relations crisis or is about to experience one, the crisis management team at Absolute Marketing Solutions can help. Contact us today at 888 908 6862.