Recent headlines have demonstrated the PR hit any business or organization can get whenquestionable actions or comments by an employee, owner or public face go viral on social media. In an instant your reputation can be damaged and your fans become your biggest critics:
- celebrity spokesperson accused of crimes in their personal life
- business owner making hostile or discriminatory statements
- customer lawsuit accusing your product of causing harm or being illegally manufactured
- political groups take offense to your brand or message
PR Crisis Management Basics
1. Have a Crisis Management Plan in Place Before a Crisis Occurs
Planning your crisis strategy while your business is under attack will prevent you from making decisions with a clear head. Hiring an experienced communications professional to help develop your crisis communications plan before an event occurs is a smart strategy so that your crisis plan is ready to implement if an event occurs:
- designate your spokesperson
- identify your crisis management team
- build relationships with media, the public and stakeholders
- monitor your social media reputation and authorize a social media manager
- annually review, update and train your management team and employees
The discussion, planning and design of your organization's crisis and reputation management strategy can help prevent your reputation being destroyed. Train your management team and employees to identify and address potential situations before they turn into a crisis.
2. Keep Your Cool
Information can quickly go viral on social media - whether the 'facts' are true or baseless. Whatever the situation, the quickest way to incite continued backlash is to become angry, defensive or hostile with the media or the public. It's necessary and strategic to present your business' side of the situation, and to address and correct incorrect information that is being circulated.
Media training and developing key messages are integral to assuring your message is delivered clearly and professionally to the public.
3. Never Lie to the Public
In the age of social media there may be thousands of individuals who have the time, skills and focus to research and track down a cover-up or outright lie. The backlash from lying about a situation can far exceed the consequences of the actual event. Tell the truth, and tell it quickly is the fastest way for your organization to get ahead of a crisis.
Before speaking out on a situation take the time to find out the facts. However, the time-frame to track down events and issue a statement has grown shorter due to the rapid exchange of information on social media. When you don't have the facts, admit it. Follow your crisis management plan to help identify the facts and communicate them to the public more efficiently and .
Having a crisis management plan in place before a crisis occurs can avert or control a PR disaster. Social media reputation management has introduced new complexities into crisis management planning. Hire an external public relations professional to develop your crisis management and provide expertise and resources to supplement the internal skills of your team, and provide guidance in the event a PR disaster occurs.
For More Information on Crisis Management in the Age of Social Media
Forbes: 10 Tips for Reputation and Crisis Management in the Digital World
PRnewsonline: 13 Tips for Effective Crisis Managment