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How to Manage a PR Nightmare

PR nightmares can happen to anyone – every company faces them at some point.  Luckily, there are a lot of steps we can take to lessen their effects. Knowing how to prepare, address, and move on from crisis is critically important. The following tips will help you to best resolve the problem — without losing clients:

Be Prepared: Have a couple of crisis management plans in place for different situations that might arise. Run crisis simulations so that your employees understand what steps they may need to take.  These mock rehearsals can also help your corporate communications department or small PR team recognize possible weaknesses that should be addressed.  Brainstorming in advance enables you to select the best responses when crisis hits. For assistance in developing your own strategic communications plan, check out our step by step guide here.

Get Ahead of the Media: Should you be aware of an upcoming issue, whether it’s a defective car part or an E.coli outbreak, make sure to address the problem before the media does it for you. Informing your customers prior to any media coverage appears, is the best approach.  When customers see your company dealing with an issue openly and directly, they will likely have more trust you in your organization and its products or services.

Accept and Acknowledge: If you are not able to notify your customers and peers before the media tells the story, the best thing you can do is to address and acknowledge the issue as soon as possible. When the BP oil spill occurred in 2010, the company immediately took responsibility and apologized for the harm that the spill had caused. These are the first steps companies should take during any PR crisis.  Ones that fail to do so inevitably aggravate the situation at hand.

Get your Facts Straight: After you address the situation, you must examine  where your company went wrong. If the claims being made are unsubstantiated, collaborate with your legal team, gather the necessary proof and present it to the public. In 2011, Taco Bell faced claims that their beef contained less than 50% actual beef and that the company was guilty of  false advertising.  The company took immediate action, responding with a full advertising campaign proving that the percentage of beef in their burgers was actually 82% (the rest was water and seasoning.)  They also reassured customers that their products were 100% USDA inspected. This campaign allowed Taco Bell to acknowledge the situation and provide customers with accurate facts. A word of caution, though:  Facts don’t necessarily sway public opinion. Luckily for Taco Bell, in this case they did.

Moving on: Following through on an issue is critical to a company’s post-crisis success. If you make promises to resolve a problem, you must back them up with action. At a time when your customers are unsure about the trustworthiness of your business, it is crucial to regain their trust.  During this time, it would most prudent to keep communication channels open.  Be honest about what you are going to do to fix the issue, and when you will do so.

Overcoming a PR disaster may feel impossible at first, but it can be done. The important thing to remember is that mistakes happen.  It’s how you come back from them that matters most.For more information on Crisis Management contact us here or call us at 415-351-2227

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