The Guarantee
September 3

PR Crisis: the Intersection of Danger and Opportunity

WE’VE ALL HEARD the myth that “all PR is good PR.” We also know that this isn’t always the case. Many business owners think that a PR crisis can only happen to large companies, like BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, or government entities, like FEMA when it was cleaning up the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. However, smaller companies rely on a smaller customer base. Losing one or two large customers due to a mismanaged PR crisis could cripple the bottom line for any small or mid-sized business. If you can see a potential crisis coming and plan accordingly, though, your PR response can mitigate risk to your brand’s reputation, improve customer loyalty and even generate new customers. Because you never know when a crisis might occur, it is always good to have a crisis-management plan in place. Consider these tips to get you started. Identify your vulnerabilities: What scenarios put you at risk for negative PR? Robberies? Stolen or lost system data? Safety-related injuries? Employees behaving unethically? Disgruntled customers talking to the media? By identifying your vulnerabilities in advance, you can have a plan in place so that you’re prepared for the worst-case scenario. Identify your key audiences: Which groups will you need to communicate with about any of these crises? Customers and prospects? Vendors? Employees and strategic partners? Keep your list of these contacts current, and make that list easily accessible for crisis team members. Establish processes for gathering information: While it’s important to act quickly in crisis mode, it’s also vital that you have accurate information, so that you can speak knowledgably and avoid missteps. Establish communication protocols for conveying critical information. Appoint a crisis spokesperson: For a small business, it’s best to appoint one spokesperson, and provide that person with media training. As we learned from BP during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the right person isn’t always the CEO. BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward, will always be remembered for callously stating, “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.” Choose someone who can communicate clearly and diplomatically. Choose a business attorney: During a crisis, consulting an attorney is helpful. Interview attorneys in advance to find one you trust with experience consulting on crises for similar companies in your industry. Create a process for addressing complaints: Create a year-round process for tracking all complaints, and establish a timeline for response. If you should have the misfortune of dealing with a PR crisis, act quickly to resolve the situation and always tell the truth. Don’t evade critics; face them. Provide regular updates to all of your key stakeholders, while demonstrating both confidence and compassion. You will also need to be accessible to media, early and often. Avoiding the media only means that you won’t have the opportunity to tell your side of the story. Finally, don’t hesitate to apologize and correct a situation when necessary. Take responsibility. John F. Kennedy, a seasoned PR pro, often reminded his staff that the word “crisis” written in Chinese is composed of two characters: one that represents danger and another that represents opportunity. Be prepared for both.


This blog was written by RedRover’s CEO & Founder, Lori Turner-Wilson. Read more about Lori and her unwavering commitment to guaranteed marketing results in her bio.

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