This is a guest post by Chris Norton, founder of insight-led PR agency Prohibition, former University lecturer, author of ‘Share This Too’ and social media blogger.
In business, PR crises are unavoidable. We live in an imperfect world where it is impossible to predict what will happen. Problems inevitably arise that can tarnish your company’s reputation in the eyes of the public.
When a problem occurs, you need to respond swiftly to maintain a positive brand reputation. Companies that do this manage to control the narrative and restore consumer trust and confidence.
Here are some of the actions you need to take to handle a PR crisis effectively.
1. Act fast & be transparent
The faster you address the issue, the more control you will have over the narrative. The best way to handle things smoothly under pressure is to have a contingency plan to manage a crisis. That plan improves your chances of you responding appropriately.
Alongside acting fast, you also need to be transparent. You have to update stakeholders on the actions you’ve taken regularly as the crisis unfolds as well. For example, the CEO of AirAsia was quick to take to Twitter after Flight 8501 crashed.
People and the media appreciated the quick actions of the CEO during this crisis. There is definitely a lesson there.
2. Create a crisis response team
To effectively manage a crisis, you’ll need a team that has been trained to handle such situations and can work efficiently to minimise the damage. A PR crisis team will help you do just that.
At a minimum, you always want senior staff members in your crisis team. You might also want support from external stakeholders with experience in crisis management alongside legal counsel.
Every team member must work together to ensure that your company speaks with a single, united voice. Your team must manage the overall response activities, set priorities, and cooperate with shareholders.
3. Train your team
You must prepare your team for emergency scenarios, ensuring that they can efficiently handle any PR crisis when needed. Your team needs to understand your brand identity and organisational values so that they can speak honestly about your company with one voice.
You must communicate procedures to anyone authorised to give public statements. Providing press and social media training will help these people deal with the public at a time when people are more likely to be critical of what you say.
4. Monitor the situation
You need to monitor the situation during a PR crisis carefully. It is important to understand what people are saying about you in the press and on social media.
You can use social media tracking tools to monitor what people say across different social channels. Also, you will want to track the coverage of your brand by journalists, influencers, and competitors. Check the public reviews about your organization as well.
It is possible to measure the success of your PR crisis strategy by tracking public sentiment and monitoring how the press covers the story. Adapt your crisis management strategy as the situation evolves, but stick to the key messaging you agreed on at the outset of the crisis.
A PR crisis is always a challenge. Using a proven framework for managing a crisis reduces the chance of making mistakes. That iscritical because the public and the press are unforgiving of companies that they believe acted wrongly.
Before a crisis, appoint and train a crisis response team. Everyone in the company should know who to contact in a crisis. You will need to appoint people that can make public statements. You want to provide these spokespeople training to know how to handle the press and what they can say on social media.
The first few days are usually the most critical time of any crisis. Get your team together and develop your strategy. Decide on your approach and stick to your talking points. As the crisis unfolds, monitor the reaction in the press and on social media. Adapt your strategy as needed.
Follow these tips, and you will manage any PR crisis that comes your way the right way.