At some point, no matter the industry, your business is almost guaranteed to have to face some sort of a public relations crisis. At the same time, your crisis management plan can be the difference between a hugely beneficial image boost, or a major blow to your brand that alienates your customers, business partners, and stakeholders. This is especially true of the internet age, where news can go viral almost instantly, and organizations must be ready to respond quickly, efficiently and skillfully.
So if you want to avoid ending up on a hitlist of the worst-handled PR crisis, or risk damaging your business over an otherwise avoidable crisis, here are the golden rules of PR crisis management that any company would do well to adopt.
- Be Prepared
No company wants to find itself at the center of a scandal, but being forced to scramble because you’re ill-prepared will only make things worse.
“Anticipate potentials crisis scenarios and establish internal protocols for handling them. Before a crisis hits, outline who needs to be notified, your internal review process and the individuals who are authorized to speak publicly on your behalf.” – Lindsay Mullen, Prosper Strategies.
- Build a Strong Organizational Culture
It’s vital that you do as much as you can to prevent the crisis in the first place. While it’s easy to place the blame on frontline employees for recurring PR nightmares, they’re far from responsible for the toxic organizational culture that can lead to them.
“An organizational brand culture that treats customers badly likely treats its employees poorly too. Dig deep into organizational culture and service delivery and you’ll find that new lows in brand experience always start at the top” – Stephen Rosa, (add)ventures.
- Understand the Situation
When a crisis does flare up, make sure to communicate all the relevant details to your key stakeholders; if asked to provide a comment, responding with “no comment” tends to only add fuel to the fire.
“Even if you’re still assessing a situation, simply say that. If you don’t have a voice in the matter, people immediately assume guilt or make their own suppositions.” – Ashley Walters, Empower MediaMarketing.
- Monitor, Plan, Monitor, Plan
Keep your social media team on high-alert; monitoring for spikes of negativity or increased activity should be a priority at all times. When such spikes occur, lean on your well-prepared crisis plan and proactively respond on social media with the prepared materials.
“Never let executives go rogue and potentially fuel the flames, but do encourage them to apologize immediately with predetermined and approved key messages.” – Matthew Jonas, TopFire Media
- Take Responsibility
This is perhaps the most important rule to handling crisis communications. Whatever you do, don’t try to play off or cover up the crisis as this will only worsen the damage. Instead, take responsibility in order to better manage the situation, react swiftly to new developments, and respond to feedback.
“Instead of arguing publicly, acknowledge people’s concerns and questions and respond to the right conversations.” – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS.