Every small company must at some time deal with the idea of public relations. You’re in the public relations industry if your company interacts with the public in any way, from online reviews to general consumer happiness. Effectively handling unfavourable news and events pertaining to your company is a part of public relations. Mishaps do occur. Issues arise. There is never a 100% guarantee that your company will be secure from unfortunate incidents that can harm your rapport with clients. Understanding how to address these issues when they arise, however, is crucial if you want to minimize damage and make sure your company can withstand the PR backlash.
What is a PR crisis?
The majority of companies will experience a PR crisis at some point. A negative occurrence may have a significant influence on a company’s image, from a succession of unfavourable reviews to a catastrophic CEO scandal. Nobody wants you to be flawless, but they do expect you to be human, which is evident in the way you respond to certain situations.
A PR crisis occurs when a bad incident or review about your company acquires momentum in the media. It may be connected to an unsafe company practice, a client accident at your facility, or a personnel-related internal problem. PR crises are significant because they have the potential to damage the perception that your clients have of your small company. What’s more crucial to realize about PR disasters is that you probably won’t be able to influence how they turn out. While there are certain tactics you may use to lessen the impact, once the information is out there, your company will need to roll with the punches and try to make things right.
Example of a PR crisis
Two of the most well-known firms in America, Facebook and Uber, have both had public relations issues.
Facebook had to cope with Cambridge Analytical-related data privacy problems, which could have had an impact on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Internal problems with sexual harassment and toxic work cultures plagued Uber. Both firms committed errors from which smaller businesses may learn.
When Facebook stated that “something occurred” rather than “something was done,” for instance, these businesses did their utmost to address the problem (by them). Or when Uber made an effort to “go in a new direction,” as if addressing the problem were that straightforward.
These apologies raise serious questions about sincerity, particularly given that some of the harm was caused by unlawful behaviour and discriminatory views. At times, it seems like all these businesses are doing is trying to ignore the problem in the hopes that society would eventually forget about it.
What effect does a PR crisis have on your business?
The long-term effects of a PR disaster may first appear ethereal, but they will unquestionably have an impact on your company. Customers and customers like doing business with companies they can trust. This trust is placed at peril if your business is hit by a PR storm. While the problem could seem to be modest or uncomplicated at first, if the PR crisis isn’t managed appropriately, it might develop into a much bigger problem.
Facebook is a prime example. Americans’ views of Facebook were altered by the Cambridge Analytical PR scandal. For instance, although while Facebook is still used by more than half of American teenagers, it is no longer the dominant adolescent social media platform. While other platforms and technologies may have contributed to this transformation, Facebook’s data privacy concerns will likely have a significant impact on how the firm interacts with both current and potential consumers in the future.
How to handle a PR crisis
There should be a PR crisis team and strategy in place for every company. Business News Daily consulted experts to find out what to do—and what to avoid doing—if your business is facing a PR crisis. Here are six guidelines for surviving the hurricane.
1. Appoint a response team
Before a crisis ever arises, your company should have have a reaction team in place. However, if there is an issue, you should promptly form a reaction team to make sure the proper individuals are speaking on your company’s behalf.
Red Banyan creator Evan Nierman stated, “It’s crucial that the company be able to respond quickly and speak with one voice, which is tough to do when numerous individuals begin to speak on its behalf.”
The most successful teams, according to him, include of both inside employees who are familiar with the business and outside specialists who can see the issue from a journalist’s point of view.
2. Devise a strategy and brief your team.
The appropriate administration of your crisis communications operations depends on protocol. Each member of your response team has to be aware of their roles and know whether to handle media coverage of the issue in a proactive or reactive manner, according to Sabina Gault, CEO of Connect Public Relations.
Whatever the plan, Gault insisted that the business convey the procedure to anybody who may be asked to speak on their behalf. This entails letting everyone know—staff members, stakeholders, board members, etc.—about who will be speaking with the media and where they should send their questions. By doing this, the business will avoid having to subsequently defend any statements made by unauthorized corporate representatives.
3. Craft your message
After you and your team have collected all the information about the occurrence, you should decide on the tone of your response. Consider the approach that will be the most honest and what your business has already done or will do to solve the issue without blaming others.
The easiest approach to handle a crisis, according to Joe Culotta, communications manager for the Hispanic Leadership Fund, is to just be upfront and honest with your audience. “People will forgive you more easily if you express your regret and acknowledge your error quickly. Additionally, the quicker you resolve the issue, the sooner people will stop criticizing you online.
Culotta cited Starbucks’ recent issue as an excellent example of how to manage it: immediately apologise, accept responsibility for what happened, and make it plain that it won’t happen again.
If the business has a large social media following, he said, “Make it more personal by having the president or CEO of the firm apologies for their error.” The better, the more graphic you may be.
Bill Pinkel, account director at Reputation Management, said that in certain circumstances it could be preferable to hold off on making a remark. It’s crucial to be responsive while still being patient, and to refrain from speaking too much.
According to him, it is often preferable to remain silent during a crisis. “Apologies won’t stop the fallout from a narrative in legal cases if they amount to admissions of guilt. A press release may oversaturate the internet with information about the situation, signaling to search engines that it is a hot subject and perhaps making repairing a company’s online image more challenging.
4. Identify and address the affected parties
Determine who needs to be informed about the crisis, including workers, stakeholders, business partners, clients, and the media. According to Gault, the audience will vary on the circumstances, but whomever is getting your message, you should make sure it is given out promptly.
Pinkel advised sending emails or a press release to well-established, dependable media sources who are likely to present the topic in a positive or fair way. However, if a story breaks, media outlets are fast to cover it, so you should be prepared with prepared comments and press releases before a reporter approaches you.
5. Monitor the situation
After a PR disaster, it’s extremely crucial to evaluate your brand’s image. In order to respond to any ensuing inquiries or worries, you must keep a watch on both incoming and outgoing interactions.
According to Morgan Mathis, vice president of Highwire PR, “it’s vital to exhibit extraordinary prudence and attention when working with consumers and partners.”
It’s crucial to keep tabs on internet commentary about your business. According to Reputation Management, businesses run the risk of losing 22% of their revenue if just one bad review appears on the first page of search results. Search for any bad user-generated material on Google Images, online review sites, social networking platforms, and even your own website.
Understanding what different audiences and stakeholders are saying about a business at any given moment is a vital component of good crisis communications, according to George Sopko, vice president of Stanton.
He recommended setting up monitoring programmes that swiftly identify troubling tendencies before they balloon into larger issues and get to the media.
In addition, Sopko advised keeping an eye on the firm’s rivals, influencers, and crisis-related terms.
6. Review and learn from the situation
Nierman proposes performing a post-action evaluation when the crisis has passed.
He responded, “Look at how skillfully your management and personnel handled the problem.”Talk about what may have been changed and what adjustments are required to avoid a similar incident.”
Reputation Management suggested concentrating on regaining your trust after a crisis in an infographic on the subject. Change the topic of discussion to good company news.
What not to do during a PR crisis
The following strategies were discouraged by our professional sources for developing and implementing media response plans.
According to Mathis, it is never a good idea to reply negatively or lay the responsibility for the issue at the feet of the complaint, even if the opposing party has made an entirely incorrect statement about your business.
She said, “You need to think logically and set any emotions aside.
Offering “no comment”
According to Nierman, the worst thing you can do in a crisis is to not have answers to prospective queries. But sometimes the knowledge you currently possess prevents you from providing a satisfactory response.
It’s understandable how the word “no comment” may be seen as an attempt to hide or evade a problem, even while using it is preferable than making anything up merely to offer a response (which our sources agreed is never the proper decision). Say so and promise the person inquiring that you will respond when you have more knowledge if you don’t have enough to make a well-informed comment.
Responding too quickly or too slowly
Timing is key when handling a PR issue. Before you know all the information, you shouldn’t respond, Gault said. Later having to retract or retract remarks you made might further harm your reputation. You won’t benefit from delaying your answer, either.
Dwelling on the situation
Mathis emphasized to company owners that the news cycle is brief and that the current circumstance will very definitely pass. You shouldn’t allow a period of “poor” publicity fully deter you from managing your company since it’s usually simply a bump on the road to success. People will be able to forgive and forget your error, but they won’t forget how you behaved, she remarked.
No matter how grim the situation seems to be, apply good judgement at all times, Mathis said. “It’s crucial to approach the circumstance appropriately.”