You know the saying, “All publicity is good publicity." While this may be the words that some celebrities live by, it’s not the case when it comes to the business world.
Bad press can destroy even the most long-standing and reputable company -- causing boycotts, loss of customers and a dip in profits. Worst-case scenario; it can even drive a company out of business.
In today’s day-and-age, bad news seems to spread like wildfire. News companies thrive on sensationalist headlines and social media makes it easy to spread rumors and negative happenings like wildfire. For companies today, being extra diligent to uphold your reputation is vital.
We all know that prevention is always the best strategy and when it comes to public relations, this is certainly the case. While there isn’t a foolproof strategy that will prevent problems from arising 100 percent of the time, this doesn’t mean that you have to sit back and let the chips fall. You can take steps to reduce the number of problems that arise and, for those times when an issue does occur, you can act early on to mitigate its damaging effects.
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Regardless of your business or organization, it’s important to have a plan for crisis management. No matter how big -- or small, the issue is, taking prompt action is key to preserving your reputation.
Let’s take a look at how you can prepare for unwanted crises -- and see the best way to respond when an issue arises.
Exercise care with social media.
Trying to save some money by doing your social media efforts yourself is fine -- if you know what you’re doing. If you’re not careful, though, it could quickly land you in hot water.
For this reason, it’s important to hire an experienced social media manager -- someone who has more than just a basic knowledge of how it works. Look for someone who’s knowledgeable with proper etiquette, and familiar with online brand promotion. The last thing you’d want is for a careless -- and potentially offensive or otherwise reputation -- damaging post to go live, like AT&T’s careless post that showed a smartphone taking photos of 9/11. Or Under Armour’s offensive “Band of Ballers” t-shirt, making light of a World War II event. Not cool. #Majorfail.
Develop a framework for crisis management.
The secret to mitigating PR disasters is having a solid plan in place.
No matter if you have a large corporation, or a one-person business, having a crisis management plan is important for a speedy and correct response. A fast and proper response can help to improve your ability to respond to a crisis, which can help you to salvage your public image, and in some cases, may even help you to avoid government penalties or fines, as well as potential litigation.
It’s difficult to think about, but it’s worth being prepared for the worst. This means identifying a response team who can be ready to respond at the first sign of trouble. This should include individuals from several departments -- including management, sales, marketing, human resources, as well as your legal team.
You’ll also want to carefully select your company spokesperson ahead of time and ensure that they’re prepared to speak on behalf of the company at a moment’s notice. The spokesperson should be able to deliver a personable, proactive, and professional message -- and should be well-schooled in speaking to the press. Ideally, they should be litigation-savvy as well.
Having a good PR agency can also help tremendously to mitigate bad press. Being able to enlist their help to counteract negative issues that go viral -- or other reputation-damaging situations that arise can be invaluable.
It’s important to react quickly -- at the first sign of trouble.
Research has shown that the success of online customer service is often determined by speed of reaction more than anything else, and staving off small issues can help to prevent customers from going to the press, quickly escalating the problem.
Ideally, this response timeframe should be no longer than 24 hours -- but sooner is always better. A fast response speaks volumes about your company, showing that you’re switched-on and that you care about your customers.
Many companies keep on top of potential issues by having someone monitoring the social media scene for them around the clock. For smaller organizations, setting up Google Alerts for your company can help you to stay up-to-date on online conversations regarding your company, allowing you to respond at the first sign of trouble.
Recognize your mistakes.
Everyone makes mistakes -- and being able to admit your errors and issue an apology is important. There are few things worse than stubbornly standing by your mistake, defending it until you’re blue in the face. This only allows the problem to gather speed -- eventually catching the media’s attention.
Instead of defending your mistake, respond properly and appropriately to the situation. If an offending post is an issue, remove it immediately, and issue a brief but sincere apology. If the problem makes it to the press, the issue will be more complicated, but not unsalvageable. In these situations, a good PR team can be a lifesaver. They’ll be able to work with you and the press, helping you to come out the other side with your reputation intact.
In these cases, transparency and honesty are always key, and silence is deadly. If you don’t have a solution, say so -- just explain what you’re doing to resolve the problem.
Ensure that you follow through with the issue. Work closely with everyone involved with the crisis, and ensure that it’s resolved in a satisfactory way. Don’t allow any case to drag on for any longer than necessary.
Aim to do better in the future.
Finally, everyone can learn from their mistakes. Your best option after a crisis is to salvage what you can from the situation and use it to do better in the future. AT&T, Under Armour and countless others who have faced PR disasters managed to make it through their crises and are doing just fine today. The secret lies in a fast -- and appropriate response.
When it comes to crisis management, it’s less about how “cool” you are, and more about your resilience. The right response can help to prevent issues from becoming bigger and can make the difference between salvaging your reputation and coming through the other side or going out of business. It’s worth investing some time and effort into a solid plan, and ensuring that your team is prepared and ready to be mobilized in a moment should something go wrong.
While crisis management isn’t fun to think about, it’s vitally important. In the end, having an airtight crisis response plan in place and a great team by your side can help you to mitigate even the worst disaster.