How to Manage a PR Crisis
Is all PR good PR? It depends on how you handle it. Having a PR crisis can make or break your company, so keep in mind these steps to keep your small business above water.
While you certainly hope it never happens to you, a PR crisis can be the end of your small business if not managed properly. It’s important to have a crisis management plan in place, in the unlikely event you ever need to execute it. Here’s how to get proactive today, before a crisis occurs.
1. Detect Possible PR Crisis Situations
It can be difficult to detect a potential crisis before it happens, but identify areas where issues could occur. For example, Toyota could have determined beforehand that it might one day have a malfunction in its cars, and made plans on how to take quick action (which it didn’t when the actual crisis came about).
Assign a crisis manager, and build a team to list out potential scenarios. These might include:
- How a natural disaster might hurt your company’s operations
- Defective products
- Deaths caused by your products
- Personal scandal for top level management
- Negative messaging in advertisements
2. Prepare for the Worst
It might seem pessimistic, but preparing for these scenarios may make the difference in a crisis killing your company or only representing a small part in its history. For each potential crisis you identified, come up with a plan for how to handle it.
Your plan should involve immediate public discussion of the crisis, including press conferences and discussion on your website, blog and social media channels. The more transparent you are in admitting the problem, apologizing and explaining your solution, the better consumers will perceive you.
Contain the Actual Crisis
If and when a real crisis occurs, it’s important to contain it from getting any bigger. One major way to do this is by the open communication mentioned above. Work tirelessly to find a solution, pull your product from shelves or get an apology or resignation from the executive. Whatever it takes to get your company back to steady, do it. It will cost tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or more, to right this crisis, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what you would lose should the crisis spin out of control.
Issue a press release and hold a press conference to discuss the crisis and your actions to fix it. Answer all questions from the media; saying “no comment” is an admission of guilt you do not want.
Recover from the Crisis
Believe it or not, this crisis will pass. One day, people will have forgotten whatever tarnished your good name, and will buy from you once again. But it’s up to you how fast that happens. Work to rebuild relationships with customers. Get back to business as usual as fast as possible, and start planning for the future once again.
What Did You Learn?
The best gift a crisis can offer is the gift of learning. You should be able to take lessons from the crisis that will prevent future ones, and that will help you operate a stronger company. You’ll learn what to do and what not to do in the event of a PR crisis. Use this to build upon your plan for the next (hopefully never) crisis.
- Work to manage your reputation rather than a crisis before the crisis hits; the more people identify with and love your brand, the easier it will be to recover.
- Maintain a good relationship with the media before a crisis, otherwise it will look like the only reason you want to speak with them is to save your skin.
- Use social media as a fast channel to address issues and be open to negative comments; respond to them all to show that you are listening.
- Use PR all the time, not just in times of crisis, to share positive company news.
- Always, always, remain transparent. If you clam up about anything, it appears that you could be hiding something.