At some point every business, no matter how big or small, will face some sort of PR crisis. Yes even yours. On a large scale it could be one where your MD has made a prejudice comment, maybe one of your products has caused someone to be injured (or even worse), or maybe you’ve accidentally created an advertisement that has been interpreted very differently to what you originally intended (in a bad way).
On the flip side it could be that you’ve got a smaller crisis on your hands that has sent you into a panic – technology not working when you have people logged into your webinar ready to watch (yes that happened to me last week), receiving some negative comments to a social media post you’ve shared or maybe a negative post by a customer about their bad experience with your business has gone viral.
Whatever the scenario, to your customers, partners and key stakeholders it doesn’t necessarily matter why the crisis itself has happened, it matters how you respond to it. That will either make or break your reputation.
The question is what should you do when the worst happen? Here are 7 steps to follow.
#1: Investigate what actually happened.
To make sure you react in the right way, you need to be fully aware of what has actually happened. My advice to you is to investigate every aspect of what has taken place, talking to the people involved (both internal and external if they’re relevant), figuring out what the potential story is from the press perspective and how your customers and key stakeholders might perceive this. Be thorough during this process so you don’t get blindsided by someone else knowing more about what’s happened than you.
This is so important. Use social media to watch and listen what is being said about your brand – if and how customers are voicing opinions, what the marketplace is saying about you and how competitors are positioning themselves to take advantage of the situation for their own gain. All of this will help you pull together a quick public reaction that will limit any further damage to your overall reputation.
#3: Take full responsibility
If you, a member of your team or your business is in the wrong then you need to accept responsibility and own it. Dob’t try to ignore it, deny it or even worse, cover it up. Instead you should figure out the best way to manage the situation by reacting quickly and effectively, addressing any concerns voiced on social media, release a statement and detail how you’re taking action to avoid this happening again.
#4: Get ahead of the story
This is crucial. Why? Because it puts you in control from the outset. You need to prepare as soon as you know about the situation and as soon as it goes public, you need to get out there and comment via social media – apologise, offer refunds if you need to, release a statement – whatever it is you need to do to try and smooth things over.
#5: Be human
You need to show everyone that there are human beings behind the scenes and to do this you need to share emotion – empathy, disgust, shame, resolve – share who you are. If you’ve made a mistake then share how that has made you feel, apologise to all parties effected and explain why this won’t happen again. You need to relate to your audiences on a human level to try and salvage your credibility and reputation. It is very possible to minimise damage doing this BUT it needs to be sincere. Don’t just give it lip service.
#6: Prepare for a strong reaction.
This is probably the most difficult part. You don’t want to go out guns blazing ahead of the story being made public because you may end up releasing the story yourself when it was actually about to be dropped for a more important story! What you need to do is prepare for the strong reaction you may receive, depending on what’s happened, both online and offline. You may lose some customers, your brand name may be dragged through the mud, partnerships may dissolve and you will probably face some negative comments on social media. This
#7: Apologise and take action
If there’s one thing I want to to take away from this blog, it’s this. You need to apologise and describe what action the business is going to take to make sure nothing like that happens again. Then after that, you need the public need to be certain that you’ve taken that action. That’s how you’ll save your reputation, that’s how you’ll show everyone that you’re trying and that’s how you’ll start making things better.
Final thought …
The key thing to do is to respond in the best way possible for your customers. They need to see you as a business that is human so you make mistakes, but when you do, you go above and beyond to rectify them. If you can do this and convey that message then you won’t lose customers, you’ll actually attract more while keeping your reputation in tact.
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Do you need help dealing with a PR crisis? Get in touch with me. Call 0191 236 1010, 07941694702 or email firstname.lastname@example.org