Thanks to social media and the 24-hour news cycle, public relations crises are almost inevitable. Sometimes these issue happen on a small scale and impact only certain local markets. Other times, the crisis blows up and garners national and international attention.
Businesses employ top-notch public relations specialists for these very moments. The right message can win back your loyal customers, while the wrong response can alienate certain populations and do irreparable damage to the brand. PR strategists are trained for these very situations.
What Top PR People Will Recommend in a Crisis
It is worth noting, before you read through the list of recommendations, that it is actually more important to be prepared for these situations than anything else. Never assume your business or brand is crisis-proof. Remember, your employees are human and mistakes are bound to be made. Create a crisis plan ahead of time so you can address the issue logically and with a cool head. Here is what else to do:
1. Get out ahead of the issue.
As soon as a leader gets any inkling that something is wrong, attempts should be made to fix the problem. This includes getting on social media to apologize, explaining what happened, offering refunds and communicating what you plan to do in the future. Even if you do not have a plan in place for this specific crisis, getting out ahead of it is essential.
2. Admit fault.
Most social media public relations issues occur because of videos, emails, messages or audio recordings. There is no use denying what the public can clearly see or hear. Take responsibility for what happened and do not try to cover things up. Arguing your case online will not win you any supporters. Post the press release and explain what you are doing to fix the issue.
3. Attempt to understand the backlash.
Before commenting, try to understand what has happened to offend people. If you do not understand why people are so upset, ask for clarification from your team. Do not assume the people who are angry about the situation have nothing better to do than complain. Instead, honestly seek to find out what you can do differently. If you are still in the process of learning about the issue, be honest and admit that, too.
4. Freeze communications.
Social media commentary can suck you in and make you even more upset than you already are. Avoid engaging with negative comments. In fact, during a PR crisis, freeze all outgoing communications in order to get a grip on the messaging. Make sure everyone who will need to react publically understands the message the business wants to put out. Your well-thought-out and consistent response will show consumers that you are serious about correcting the issue.
5. Take care of your team.
Your employees, no matter their seniority-level or department, will feel an impact by the PR crisis. Be sure to address their concerns so that they do not become disgruntled. They will want to know what you are doing to address the problem. Do not pass blame to them or their colleagues. Instead, explain how they will be impacted by new rules, regulations or training requirements that will come from the incident.
To learn more about how Grand Canyon University’s Colangelo College of Business keeps businesses ahead of public relations fallouts by training the best and brightest leaders and communicators, visit our website or click the Request More Information Button on this page.
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Business Buzz is a business blog that features content written by faculty, staff and students from Grand Canyon University’s Colangelo College of Business. In addition to profiles about events, students and faculty on campus, you’ll also find great resources for online students or anyone interested in attending business school. Learn about the modern business landscape, and how business today continues to grow and evolve to meet the needs of organizations and consumers in the 21st century. Check in every week for the latest news from the business community and around GCU.