~by Mila Payton~
A public relations disaster is a company’s biggest nightmare. Such a crisis usually leads to lowered public approval ratings and internal management difficulties, and in severe cases may even threaten the continued existence of the business itself. That’s why it is imperative to know just how to react whenever a PR problem rears its ugly head. With that in mind, here are some battle-tested PR strategies for just such an occasion:
Listen to what the people are saying
As one of the most important business acronyms around, WOM (also known as “word of mouth”) can make all the difference in the world when it comes to keeping your business afloat in troubled times. To that end, you’ll first need to scour the Internet and see what people really think about your company. You may not like what you’ll see and it may not even be true, but it will help you gain an understanding of how you’re perceived so you can take steps to try and change it.
Select a primary spokesperson
During difficult times, it is imperative that your business presents a united front when it comes to all communication efforts. By selecting a good spokesperson, you’ll be able to control the messages your company puts across and steer the conversation in an appropriate direction. Keep in mind that a company’s CEO or president might not be the best option for handling all communication needs, especially if they are too closely involved with the case at hand.
Respond in a timely manner
Once your crisis management team is assembled, it’s time to take direct action. In today’s internet-obsessed world, most of the battlefield will likely be online. So you’ll need to focus your efforts towards counteracting the tide of anger and disappointment that will inevitably come your way. Try to offer quick and fact-based responses in a timely manner, but also take care to express sympathy and concern whenever there are real victims involved.
Engage in positive actions
One of the best ways to steer the conversation back in your favor is to engage in positive actions that can really make a difference to the people who have been affected by the recent mishap. You don’t have to take any drastic actions if you cannot afford them, however. Simply showing support and engaging in volunteer work can earn your company some much-needed goodwill in such times.
Keep your own employees up to speed
Finally, an oft-underrated aspect of handling PR disasters lies in keeping your own employees in check. People are people, and they can be swayed by rumors and media reports, so you should take extra care in communicating the truth to your staff at all times during a crisis. Ideally, an internal crisis communication team should be set up in order to offer clear-cut answers to employees’ questions and help maintain a positive atmosphere within the company.
Always keep in mind that PR disasters are temporary by their very nature, and will eventually pass. Therefore, hold on tight to your values during such trying times, and you’ll most likely emerge unscathed at the other end sooner rather than later.
Meet the Author: Mila Payton
Mila Payton holds a BSc in International Business. She likes reading and writing about business, education and finance. In her free time, Mila enjoys cooking and spending time with her family.