How to Handle a PR Crisis

pexels-photo-313690-300x225  People always used to say that there’s no such thing as “bad PR.”  But in a day and age when videos of people being dragged off airplanes go viral in a matter of minutes, I think that even PR folks with nerves of steel can agree that this is simply no longer the case.

If you’re staring down the barrel of a PR disaster that has its sights set only on your company, here are a few hard and fast things to keep in mind to avert disaster… at least least minimize the pain, as much as humanly possible.

1. What should be your first move after your company has experienced a PR crisis?

Acknowledge the mistake. Too many businesses delay in taking responsibility, and that leaves customers and clients feeling as if they are trying to hide something or worse, make excuses for whatever went wrong. So get out in front of the disaster, and acknowledge something went wrong. That’s called accountability, and it can pay off down the road.

2. Should you appoint a response team? 

Case-by-case basis. If the crisis is huge and spills into every single area of your business then yes, you probably need a rapid response team to help you strategize and limit the damage. But if the crisis is more localized, and the overall reputation of your company isn’t completely at stake, I think you can handle it in-house.

3. What websites and places should you monitor during a PR crisis? 

The usual suspects: all your social media accounts is the place to start, because if things blow up, it often begins on social media and ripples outward. This actually goes with the answer to “what is your first move,” but you definitely want someone in your company to be on social media, putting out the message of accountability and answering every single query about what went wrong. You may not be able to answer ‘why’ yet and that’s fine, but having someone tell the public that you understand and are sorry is huge.

4. When, how and who should create a message in response to the crisis? 

You should create a message as soon as possible. In this 24/7 information cycle, ten minutes feels like an eternity to your customers, so get out the acknowledgment message as soon as you can craft one that sounds suitably apologetic and that informs everyone you are trying to find out what went wrong so it won’t happen again.

5. When/How should you send out a press release? 

I’m not a huge fan of press releases after a crisis, at least not in the heat of things. Releases always come off as kind of programmed and expected, and I think customers are just too savvy these days for press releases to have much impact when a crisis is still fresh.

6. What should you do once the crisis is “handled?” 

After the crisis fades a bit, you have to put out the message as to why it happened. What went wrong? Why weren’t there safeguards? How will you prevent this from happening again in the future? Those are the things that customers want to know, so you have to kind of bare open your company’s soul and let everyone know you messed up, and that you’re taking steps to make sure that the crisis isn’t repeated. If the crisis affected customers’ ability to purchase something, or involved your site being down, offering some type of incentive or discount is always a nice gesture.

7. What’s the worst things to do during a crisis? 

The worst thing to do is to refuse to take responsibility, or to say it was out of your hands.

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