For every business, there’s always that one time when you need to manage a public relations crisis. Your response to this situation can either give your brand the spotlight edge it needs or cause a considerable damage that you and your organization may never recover from. Any business, at one point, will face some sort of a public relations crisis and the way you respond can either give you a much-needed image boost or significantly damage your brand, ultimately alienating your customer base and business partners. The times we are in do not make this easier as any information is just a key away from becoming viral on public news channels and organizations need to rise to the occasion as it demands in the event of a public relations crisis.
In order to avoid being a casualty of PR nightmares or losing sources of business revenue because of a crisis that can be resolved easily, the following are 10 basic rules, highly recommended by members of Forbes Agency Council.
1. Be prepared
A scandal can happen for any reason and your level of preparation is what will determine the severity or mildness of the situation. Rather than wait for a damaging event to occur before taking action, anticipate possible scenarios and create due processes that should be followed. Before the event of a crisis, put functional problem-solving protocols in place with specific details that state the offices to be notified and the persons who are authorized to take decisions on behalf of the management. – Lindsay Mullen, Prosper Strategies
2. Put out the fire
Irrespective of the type of damage that has been caused, the first rule of crisis management is to put out the fire, rather than fuel it. This means that you get to the source of the situation, put yourself in the client or end user’s and ask yourself how you will feel if the tables were turned. Assessing the situation from a different perspective such as this will help you handle the situation better and is the first step to damage control.
3. Be proactive
We live in an era that revolves around social media and your reputation can be lost in the blink of an eye. Be mindful of the critics that are ever at your heel and take the initiative in crisis communication. This will require you to be accountable, proactive, and transparent in your responses. In other words, acknowledge the crisis, take responsibility for it, and apologize. – Lisa Allocca, Red Javelin Communications
4. Accept responsibility
Do not attempt to suppress the PR crisis as this will only serve to worsen the situation. You can repair the damage better by accepting responsibility and aptly responding via appropriate channels. Rather than fueling public arguments and confusion, recognize people’s concerns, give the right responses and engage in applicable conversations. Put out a press release on social media platforms to get your message across to your target audience. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
5. Be quick to apologize
It is important that you apologize first before taking any action. A heartfelt public apology will douse the fire and change the narrative before it takes a turn for the worse. Once this is communicated across-the-board, you can then move forward with a call to action. This should entail taking substantial steps that to show that a different pathway is being charted to fix the damage. – Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR
6. Understand the situation
While there are many reasons why you need to understand the situation, an important one is for you to be able to communicate significant details to major stakeholders. It is wrong for you to give “no comment.” to any question as keeping mute will most likely make people trade blames and assume wrongly. It is better to say that you are still reviewing the situation and where you can, be open about the steps being taken to solve the situation. – Ashley Walters, Empower MediaMarketing
7. Be social media sensitive
It will be foolish for any company to ignore the power of social media at this time and the inherent danger in undermining its potential. Many small organizations are guilty of this which can be attested to by their absence or inactivity on social media platforms. The fact that a company does not market its products and services on social media does not mean its target market will not put it up on social media platforms when it flops. Have an audience-based plan for this and review it regularly. – Chris Dreyer, Rankings.
8. Communicate, monitor and evaluate
This is not the time for your social media team to be complacent. Have them on alert mode to monitor all channels and gauge feedbacks for any unusual response. Prepare a detailed crisis plan so that they can respond proactively in the event that they notice increased activity or negative trends at the forefront. Do not allow any of your official give out unauthorized information that conflicts with this plan. Communicate approved key messages to them so that they can apologize immediately as well and help douse the flames. – Matthew Jonas, TopFire Media
9. Think before you talk
It is not unusual to see influencers, delegates, brand spokespersons and even executives give mindless responses in a bid to provide damage control during crisis. It is better to go silent while you assess the situation rather than make emotional statements that will fuel the fire. Stop all external communication until you understand what’s going on. You can afterward come up with a well-thought-out response that your audience will find agreeable. – Coltrane Curtis, Team Epiphany
10. Be human Don’t say “you’ll look into it” as this will only make people despair. Rather, communicate to them that you’re deeply saddened by what happened and are working to provide solutions. Follow up with the policies being put in place to prevent a reoccurrence of what happened. Do not give people a cause to lose faith in your organization. – Nicole Rodrigues, NRPR Group, LLC