Consider the following scenario: A business in a fairly small town received an enormity of angry emails, phone calls and public social media messages that could potentially destruct their business. A few days prior to this outburst, local pranksters put up a sign outside the storefront with a message saying disabled people were "unwelcome" and "we can't help you" among other things. The note was perceived as unapologetic, yet seemingly legitimate. Locals, non-locals, and the press backfired with questions, concerns, and anger. This business was in the middle of a PR crisis. To make matters worse, the business owners did not address the situation right away. When they did, they were argumentative, emotional, and defensive. Not the best way to handle a PR crisis.
So, what is one to do when faced with public and damaging circumstances? First and foremost, any business is capable of falling into the hands of a public crisis so it's important to know when to act and how to act if it happens to you. However, there is a way to pull out of it safely without compromising your business's image. Here are 5 tips to consider when faced with a PR crisis:
1. Have a plan for dealing with the media: If you are going to accept an interview, have a very simple message, and stay on point. Don’t get sucked into conversations for which you are not prepared. Reporters have a tendency to cleverly rearrange statements to make for a more interesting story.
2. Determine who will speak to the media: Identify a specific spokesperson who has a firm grasp of the issue at hand. In a smaller business, typically the senior manager is the most appropriate spokesperson. In larger concerns, an employee such as the head of HR will be the one to communicate with the media.
3. Consider hiring professional help : Depending on the size and severity of the story, you may be well advised to hire a professional who has experience in crisis management. Such people can provide useful input into how to handle a difficult situation. If you are likely to face criminal or civil charges as a result of the report, consult an attorney who has experience with these types of issues.
4. Don't make the situation worse : Their are several ways to make a PR crisis work including becoming angry or defensive with he media and drawing more unwanted attention. If you are facing charges such as unsafe working conditions in your plant, this is not the time to give the VP of manufacturing a big bonus.
5. Own up to your shortcomings : Although first reaction may be to become defensive, owning up to a misconduct is wise in a PR crisis. Trying to cover things up almost always makes matters worse. Follow up with what steps your business will take to avoid similar situations in the future.
If you find yourself in a PR crisis, it's important to act quickly and carefully. Think before your act because your first instinct of what may seem to be the right course of action may cause your business to destruct. Follow these5 simple tips to handle a PR crisis with grace and professionalism.