Remember when United Airlines forcefully removed a passenger from their aircraft or when H&M released an ad which featured a black child wearing a hoodie that read ‘Coolest Monkey in the Jungle’? Now, these are exactly what a PR crisis is made up of.
From employee misconduct and dismal customer experiences to product defects and malevolence of any kind – all of this can give rise to a PR crisis and you know the thing about bad news – it spreads like wild fire.
Crisis comes unannounced and no business is immune to it. So, what do you when your brand is at the receiving end of it? Here are 5 steps to tackle a PR crisis smoothly without having it sabotage your business’ reputation –
Understand the Problem
You wake up one morning to bad news about your company which seems to be all over TV channels, newspapers and social media. Yes, this can be quite an overwhelming situation to manage.
Before you decide to make any reactive statements, it is important to sit with your core team or involve your PR agency if you have one and assess the situation. You need to understand the problem entirely to take a stand.
Whether it’s got to do with a staff/employee or a customer – speak to the person in question and witnesses, if any. Try and get as much information about the ‘crisis’ that occurred before you rush to make judgements. You don’t want to react basis half-baked stories and face further backlash later.
Craft your Message
Now that you know what the issue is, it’s time to formalize the stand your company plans to take. It’s important to be honest, transparent and take responsibility. Don’t react adversely and lash out because that will only go against you. Another mistake brands make is taking a ‘no comment’ approach – this phrase is often perceived negatively and does not make the situation any better.
Whether you plan to send out a press release, release a statement on social media proactively or only do so when asked should be decided basis the nature and extent of the crisis. What’s most important is getting ready with your messaging beforehand.
A good crisis holding statement is one that is empathetic, action-oriented and reassuring. This is a crucial piece of communication so if you don’t have a PR team or agency, make sure you seek who can help you draft this.
In this case, internal communication is as important as external, if not more. Imagine, a crisis has occurred, and your Chief Operating Officer is attending a tradeshow wherein he is probed about the crisis – he in no way can appear to be clueless or worse, blurt something out that isn’t in line with the stand your company is taking.
Hence, ensure you educate internal stakeholders (from front-facing staff to the higher management) about the crisis and the company’s stand on it. While everyone needs to be aware, you can’t have multiple spokespeople. Make sure you have one spokesperson who delivers the message, when approached.
As soon as a crisis occurs, you need to keep your eyes and ears open especially in today’s digital age, when the first place you should monitor are the social media platforms.
Use social media listening tools to keep a check on what people are saying and respond to comments made directly to you. There will be times when you will be bombarded with negative comments and messages, but it is important to respond to them all.
These cases can take weeks to months to get diminished but the best you can do is proactively be at it.
Something good always comes out of bad experiences. You might not understand that when you are in the midst of the crisis but once it’s all over, remember to learn from the experience.
Post the crisis, you might need to highlight positive brand activities to get people to start trusting your brand again. If it had to do with an employee, you can work on a protocol and make sure the same mistakes don’t happen again. Similarly, if it was a product issue, take it up with the vendors and strengthen your quality control measures.
The idea is to take learnings and ensure you are better prepared for the next crisis that occurs.
Adela Belin is the Head of Digital Marketing at She creates content surrounding marketing with a focus on social media and digital marketing. Feel free to contact Adela on .