The art of PR is just that: art. Inspired, forward thinking, and sometimes difficult to interpret without the right eye for communication that has the power to either generate buzz or stop it in its tracks.
Nowadays, the value of PR is constantly questioned, with companies looking to substitute more traditional forms of strategic communications with digital marketing strategies alone. And while there certainly is some overlap to be found across these areas, successful reputation management comes down to understanding how each arm works together in tandem. This becomes especially key in the event of brand bashing mayhem.
From preemptive preparations to reactive messaging, read on for a better understanding of how to effectively manage a PR crisis.
Plan for Everything and Anything
Stopping a PR crisis in its track is as much about internal demeanor within a company as it is the external communications. Cool, calm, and collected, with a sense of urgency, naturally aids in delivering reactions that are both thoughtful and rational. How do you find zen in moments of crisis? You have a plan.
From the smallest of employee verbal fumbles to large-scale branding faux pas gone viral, assume anything that could happen will happen. Lay out reactionary steps corresponding with each from the top down. Include rough timelines for communication releases, detail necessary stakeholders and their functions throughout, and get buy-in from executive management.
Approach each potential scenario with preventative measures as well. This could be in the form of employee training across departments on established social media guidelines. Or maybe time should be spent putting upper management through mock interviews for the sake of streamlining purpose-driven statements and honing on-the-spot response skills.
Not All PR Crises Are Created Equal
To effectively manage a PR crisis, you must be cognizant of what actually qualifies as a crisis. Someone bashing your company on Twitter after a less-than-satisfactory experience, after all, may not necessarily warrant full force response mode. If this dissatisfied customer ends up being a celebrity with a massive following, however, your approach may differ.
When building out plans and assessing the severity of a situation, it might be worth asking a handful of questions at the onset.
Some ideas include:
- Will the event interrupt the everyday?
- Does upper management need to get involved?
- Can it ruin the reputation of the company and its stakeholders?
- Will it turn people away from purchase, thus directly impacting the bottom line?
Knowing where an event falls in line with regards to those types of questions will better allow you to classify the level of urgency it may warrant. That way, you’ll be able to make the most of what little time you have to react and loop in relevant parties as needed.
Put a Hold on Scheduled Communications
If your company recently went through a round of mass layoffs, sending out a LinkedIn post on the day of the announcement about company culture may not exactly work in your favor. For unplanned events, the same holds true.
At the very first moment you catch wind of a potential PR crisis in the making, loop in necessary departments across the branding team to evaluate and put a hold on any pre-scheduled communications. Though you’re unlikely to be in complete control of the conversation throughout the process, the more you can mediate potential reactions by not fueling the fire, the better.
Get on Social
Social media is often the kickstarter behind a negative situation gone viral. It is also the place people will first turn to when throwing in their two cents and/or monitoring how the situation unfolds. Because of this, you’ll again want to own the conversation across your channels as much and as quickly as possible.
In addition, make sure to have staff on hand that are trained and able to respond accordingly. During the planning stage, this may mean training and briefing various members of the team on best practices as they relate to social media management.
Be Genuine and Transparent
You avoid coming across as contrived in the messaging behind your brand’s digital marketing efforts, so why wouldn’t you do the same in the event of a PR crisis? Giving cookie cutter responses and heavily staged feedback will leave your brand void of emotion and coming across as inauthentic.
In the same respect, going on the defensive will most likely win you more enemies than advocates. Take a stand as it makes sense with regards to your brand mission, but be willing to accept the fact that your company may be in the wrong.
Failing to display any sense of remorse is a surefire way of leaving audiences feeling alienated and disconnected from any allegiance they may have once felt towards your products and/or services.
Final Thoughts: How to Effectively Manage a PR Crisis
Mistakes happen and avoidance certainly won’t get you far when it comes to managing a PR crisis. Err on the side of human, own the story, and remain thoughtful in your approach.
And when in doubt, let Mabbly help your brand do all the talking.