Whether it’s faulty product design or customer mistreatment, no company is immune from making the occasional mistake. However, since businesses are generally held up to a higher level of scrutiny than average folks, their mistakes are often magnified and, if let unchecked, can turn into full-blown PR disasters. Especially now in the online age, when news travels faster than ever before and things can spread like wildfire over social media, companies have to be especially prompt in addressing every single issue and nipping a potential disaster in the bud. To that end, here are some essential PR tips for companies in times of crisis:
When it comes to things they don’t have direct knowledge of, people usually tend to operate on a belief that “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. This means that, if your company is implicated in some way in a scandal, denial is not an option unless your business truly is absolutely clean. Otherwise, assuming responsibility in a direct and straightforward fashion is by far the most dignified thing you can do. After all, there’s nothing worse than sweeping things under a rug and then having them come back and haunt you on a later date. Better to release a statement right at the beginning of the crisis that paints a clear and transparent picture of the situation.
Draw attention to the company’s positive track record
Any company that finds itself ensconced in a PR crisis will temporarily have to deal with a big blow to its image. To prevent the formation of lasting negative associations between your company and the incident at hand, take steps to remind your customers of your positive track record. For instance, a transportation company that has gone accident-free for the past several decades should point that out when their first slip-up occurs. This should be done without smugness or a sense of superiority, and with a real sense of empathy towards the people who have had to suffer because of the company’s mistake.
Take proactive measures
Finally, getting past a PR disaster often requires more than just the ability to weather a storm successfully. In addition, businesses are expected to double-down on their positive impact in the post-crisis period. For instance, a company that has inadvertently caused harm to the environment should implement new policies that showcase their eco-friendliness. Creating great content and marketing it properly at this point in time is also a must. People need to know that you’re taking steps to address all the issues at hand and hopefully prevent further incidents from happening again in the future.
Talk to customers directly
Speaking of people, PR disasters tend to alienate them most of all and can cause a rift in company-consumer relationships. To stop that from happening, a business has to be prepared to talk to people directly. Since nowadays people tend to congregate online, it’s good to have an Internet-based approach to this issue. Send well-trained representatives to forums and social media websites and keep people up to speed with how events are developing. Customers dislike being kept in the dark most of all, and their lack of info will most likely mutate into genuine resentment over time if left unchecked.
Have a personal touch
People generally regard companies as faceless enterprises, without seeing the people behind them. In a time of crisis, it can be helpful to pull back the curtain a bit and allow for a more friendly interaction, especially when it comes to your social media presence. Take steps to ensure that the message you want to convey is expressed in an informal, easy-to-understand manner that will not alienate consumers. Don’t be afraid to crack the occasional joke too, but be careful to not go overboard, lest you risk offending people and causing more harm in the long run.
It’s an undisputed fact of life that all companies go through the occasional crisis. But it’s the way they act during such turbulent times that really says a lot about the people running those companies. So the next time your business appears to be heading for troubled waters, avoid the headless chicken syndrome and take command of the situation instead. You’d be surprised just how much you can get done if you maintain a calm and steady demeanor throughout the whole situation.