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Crisis Averted: What to Do When A PR Nightmare Strikes

You can admit it – it’s easy to find yourself entertained by drama. Whether from small talk, social media, or the Bravo network, what is viewed as comedic relief has the potential to lead to a crisis. Even though what we see in the media gives us a good laugh, from a business standpoint, real-world industry crises pose significant threats to brands and their reputation.

Public Relations involves managing an organization’s relationships and reputation with the public, media, and stakeholders. With so many parties and factors intertwined, it’s a given for issues to arise now and then. Even if you have complete confidence that your business is crisis-proof, the unpredictable nature of it says otherwise.

Now, don’t let the anxiety of a potential crisis eat away at you. The good news is that there are ways to prepare and protect yourself and your business. If you haven’t already, it’s time to prioritize and implement crisis management and crisis communication.

What constitutes a PR crisis?

PR crises threaten brand reputation and consumer trust. They’re like a bad car crash you can’t look away from. Whether you have a defective product on your hands, a company scandal or accident, a legal altercation, or run into bad press, you’ve likely found yourself in the hot seat.

No matter how optimistic or prepared you are, many businesses encounter a crisis. Something as minor as a negative Google review or social media post to an extreme executive scandal, one negative incident can impact your business. Common crises often stem from unhealthy business practices, customer accidents, product defects, and internal employee-related issues.

Data breaches, legal disputes, and competitor actions also add fuel to the fire. These things doubt a company’s integrity, reliability, and overall competence.

To put things into perspective, check out the time everyone’s favorite fictional Regional Manager encounters a mishap:

 

Implementing Crisis Management

In case you neglected to pay attention (aka fell asleep) during the Crisis Communication 101 college lecture, let’s refresh – Crisis management is a company’s strategy-based approach to recognizing and addressing an unexpected event or negative disruption. The goal is to be prepared to mitigate ASAP and with confidence.

Effective crisis management includes:

  • Timeliness and transparency.
  • Taking responsibility for mistakes.
  • Implementing corrective actions and demonstrate commitment to finding a resolution.

 

Step 1: Uh-oh…you’re in crisis mode.

Time is always of the essence in business.

  • Address the situation promptly; stakeholders expect immediate response time.
  • Explain how your company intends to resolve the crisis.

 
Be an open book.

  • Shielding the truth makes consumers skeptical.
  • Honesty and transparency rebuild consumer trust and credibility.

 
Always be willing to listen.

  • Take all feedback into consideration to get direct insight and make informed decisions.
  • Encourage people to voice constructive criticism.
  • Open communication lets the public know you’re committed to making improvements.

 
Accept responsibility.

  • Own up to mistakes and wrongdoings.
  • Avoid searching for a scapegoat, especially when you know you’re at fault.
  • Responsibility reduces backlash when making amends.

 
Take the initiative.

  • Failing to be proactive encourages competitors and disgruntled customers to spread false information.
  • Provide updates on the steps being taken to reach a resolution.
  • Follow through with promises.

 
Living in a fast-paced digital world, news spreads like wildfire. The media’s “canceling” power – rejecting a person or organization in crisis mode – is the easiest way to get blackballed. Instead of forfeiting the opportunity to recover, show your commitment on every platform possible. Speak out through social posts that quickly reach target audiences and are easily shareable.

Next step: Crisis Communication

Crisis communication goes hand-in-hand with crisis management. You can’t have one without the other. After making a concrete management strategy, crisis communication extends transparency and vocalizes your corrective actions.

First impressions are everything. How you first communicate a crisis with the public sets the tone for the future of your business. When faced with a sticky situation, there’s no time to stand around twiddling your thumbs until someone throws out a semi-decent approach. Obviously, crises will differ, but having a blueprint to go off ensures your first impression will be positive.

A crisis communication plan outlines the steps, roles, and responsibilities required for verbal damage control. Here are the major components your plan must include:

  1. Risk assessment – Consider potential scenarios affecting your business. Understanding both internal and external factors about such risks makes for proactive planning.
  2.  

  3. Message development – Craft a message that covers all grounds. Address the situation, its impact, and your business’s steps to resolve the issue. Remember, stakeholders and general target audiences are human too. Be sincere and empathetic in relaying your message.
  4.  

  5. Response team – Designate a group of individuals trained to mitigate. Such a team can include representatives from public relations, human resources, and upper management. It takes a village, especially when uncertainty and stress are at an all-time high.
  6.  

  7. Media training – Separating from the response team, spokespersons must be responsible for dealing with the media. They should be well-versed in communicating with news outlets, journalists, and other platforms to disclose appropriate information. Businesses must be willing to set up lines of communication rather than waiting to be harassed.
  8.  

  9. Lock in media relations – Connect with news outlets, influencers, and journalists who can quickly reach the public with the right information. Invite media relations to pick up and distribute your story. Need help nailing down news outlets to do so? Find out Why News Outlets May Be Ghosting Your Press Release.
  10.  

  11. Monitoring and analysis – Set up tools to monitor media coverage related to the crisis to gain insight into public sentiment and have a prompt response time.
  12.  

  13. Post-crisis evaluation – Conduct a thorough evaluation once the crisis has subsided. Ask yourself, what areas can be improved? Think about the strengths and weaknesses and adjust your communication plan as needed.
  14.  

The comeback is always greater than the setback.

When a crisis unfolds, it often happens instantaneously—the recovery process…not so much. It’s a process that takes patience. Don’t feel defeated, even if it takes multiple attempts to make a comeback after a crisis.

Crisis management and crisis communication are advantageous tools that every company needs to recognize. There’s no doubt that the idea alone of finding your business tied up in a crisis is unsettling. Still, every altercation is a chance to grow. Preparing and practicing strategic approaches will help you come back strong. No matter the disruption, embracing crisis management and crisis communication earns trust, preserves reputation, and betters the confidence of your business.

After all, the last thing you want to encounter is reputational or financial damage, as our good friend Michal Scott did.

 

Understanding the process of crisis management and crisis communication is one thing, but actually having to rebuild your brand can feel overwhelming when putting it all in motion. Rather than giving this another read, let Inertia help your business prepare for and address a potential crisis. Call (267) 470-4070 or email us idea@inertia.marketing.

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