A public relations (PR) crisis can spread in a variety of ways today — especially on TV, online and through social media — that will impact your brand forever. How quickly you respond is critical. Without giving you a lecture: When things are calm I strongly hope you are establishing your brand mission, attributes, and creating goodwill in the industry and community you serve on a consistent basis. That goodwill is the currency you will need during a rough patch starting with your employees, customers, vendors and the public. When it comes to a crisis here are my recommendations:
* You must have an official spokesperson that handles the media. In a perfect world, they have been trained. No lawyers. No CEO with a suit coat on…roll up your sleeves.
* Be accountable. You can’t take a stand that the issue is unfair or not your fault or blame others. If you indicate you feel no responsibility, deflect or provide false answers, things can escalate and become a worse PR issue.
* Empathy is vital during an apology or describing the tough situation…it must be real. If people and or property were affected, you must start there.
* Never say “No Comment”. It will look like your are hiding from the subject. No fancy language…be down to earth.
* State you are investigating the situation, getting more facts and will work with a team to determine how to fix the problem or processes to avoid it happening again.
* Your best ambassadors are your employees and customers. Communicate consistently and make sure you are transparent. Assume whatever you say will be repeated internally and externally.
* Deploy reputation management in your activities — keep track of media coverage, articles, bloggers, social media, reviews, discussion boards both good and bad…reach out to those who need the right information or follow up with them as to your progress. Do NOT debate the scenario and prolong it.
* Media cycles are shorter than ever but memories last forever. Handle this crisis situation with a pre-discussed strategy so you are not running scared when something happens.
Al Maag is author of the book “Social Media Isn’t Social” available on Amazon.com; and a principal at MaagComm+