It happens to everyone at some point…. a product recall, an offensive CEO comment, a PR crisis can happen at any time and you’ll never have any warning. Which is why it’s important to be prepared for one before it happens. And having a fantastic crisis PR team on your side is an absolute must. See below for a little peek at the steps we take to minimize the damage from an unexpected crisis:
1) Have a plan up your sleeve! Reacting in the moment to a big shock can be the worst mistake you make in a crisis. It’s best to be prepared before disaster strikes, so you have a plan that was conceived while you were thinking calmly and logically. Avoid reacting emotionally at all costs. To make a plan follow these steps:
– Think of everything that can go wrong. This is not the time to be a “glass half full” kind of person, let your pessimistic side take control! Could someone get injured because of your product? Could a company executive say something insensitive to a reporter? Could a material change in your manufacturing process go horribly awry? Write down a long list of every single thing that could go wrong, no matter how improbable it may seem.
– Take that list and divide it into two different categories, in-your-control issues and out-of-your-control issues. For example, a huge change to a product would be an issue that is within your control, whereas an employee injury would be out of your control.
– For each possible crisis, make a list of action items of how you would deal with the crisis to minimize damage to the brand and its reputation. Also, decide who will be in charge of executing the plan.
– Practice the plan a couple times a year. Your team needs to know exactly what to do when the crisis hits, and as your mother always says, practice makes perfect.
Now you have a plan! Doesn’t that feel better? Now you can just sit back and cross your fingers and hope none of those things actually happen….
2) But if they do happen, stay calm! You have to be strategic with the way you present the issue to the public. When speaking to the public about the crisis, follow these rules:
– One person needs to be the designated spokesperson for the crisis. If 15 people from your company are all speaking to the press and the public, there is going to end up being conflicting information, which makes the company look disorganized and dishonest. Too many cooks in the kitchen is literally a recipe for disaster (see what I did there?).
– That one person needs to be high up in the company, have impeccable speaking skills, and be very accessible.
– Never release any information that you are not 100% sure is accurate. Never speculate, only state facts. Be aware of what is okay to divulge, and what is not.
– Think before you tweet! Social media is the perfect way to keep the public updated and release information about the crisis that you have complete control over. Just be careful, and make sure its not an intern behind the computer (even though we love interns).
– Keep the line of communication to and from the public open. Periods of silence seem suspicious. Don’t hide under a rock, get out there and show your face and use your words.
3) And if the crisis just doesn’t seem to be going away, just make sure you carefully monitor the public’s views on your company. Their opinions matter more than anything and luckily in this day and age it is easy to trace the public’s opinion through social media, especially Twitter and Facebook. Subscribe to google alerts on your company, and the topic of the crisis (eg. “company name product recall”). Do regular searches of hashtags and keywords related to your company and the crisis on social media. Listen to the internet, it’ll tell you what stage you’re at in your crisis recovery.
4) The fourth and final step – and an important one at that. The crisis is finally settling down. The public has moved on because Brangelina finally got married (omg). Use this time to sit down with your team and have a serious discussion about how the crisis was handled, what worked and what could be improved on for the next time something bad happens. Tweak your crisis plans using your experience, and maybe you can ultimately turn something negative into something positive.
Don’t you love happy endings? 🙂