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Failure to prepare for the day you hope never comes is a mistake many companies make. Planning for the worst may in fact be the best way to prevent a PR crisis from becoming a PR disaster. Responsible leadership requires having a plan in case something goes wrong in order to reduce panic and to keep matters from getting worse.
For PR pros like us, crisis management is part of the job. Most companies however, don’t have a plan in case a reputation-destroying crisis occurs. That’s why we’ve put together the following straightforward tips to help you handle a PR crisis, just in case:
Investigate the issue and know the whole truth about what went wrong before making a statement or talking to the media. Once you understand what happened (and how such an issue can be prevented in the future), make choices about how you are going to talk about it. A good way to prepare is by writing it all down. Create a messaging document with every question you could possibly be asked and how the spokesperson should respond. This allows the team to craft messaging together and prevent inconsistencies.
Don’t wait too long to react, though. It’s important for businesses to acknowledge problems as soon as possible. That way you may preserve the trust of your customers by taking immediate action and looking transparent.
You may not even realize that your business has a crisis on its hands until you notice more mentions than usual spring up on social media. Such social activity can be a strong indicator that you need to publicly address the problem. It can also help you understand the size of the issue and the sentiment of the community. How many people are commenting? Are they angry or supporting you? Has the press written about it?
Figure out what the extra chatter is about, but avoid reacting impulsively. Don’t ignore the commotion either. Say something simple such as, “We are investigating the issue and will have an update soon.” That way you may buy time to prepare messaging and figure out the whole truth before issuing an apology and/or more information.
It may be cliché, but honesty really is the best policy. Don’t risk damaging the company’s reputation further by masking the truth. It may surprise you how forgiving loyal customers can be if they trust and believe you are doing all you can to fix the problem. If incorrect information is circulating, respond with the truth.
Being honest doesn’t mean you need to release a report with specifics of what went wrong, however. Keep press statements short, but accurate.
If you’d like our expert advice to help your company with PR crisis management, as ever, please get in touch.
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