Businesses of all sizes will eventually face a public relations crisis, whether from an internal issue, defective product or a world event. Whatever the catalyst, experts like Declan Kelly, co-founder of the communications, strategy and consulting firm Teneo, have advice for handling and minimizing the potential fallout.
Acknowledge and Apologize
Once management is aware of the problem, the public relations team should get ahead of the story and issue a proper apology as soon as possible. Even if the company or its staff are not directly at fault, taking the blame for whatever role they did play will go a long way to defusing potential backlash. In addition, controlling the message from the start is easier and more effective than trying to correct a false public perception once it’s out there.
Simply staying silent in the hopes it will all go away could turn a minor blunder into a reputational nightmare if not properly managed.
Plan and Prepare
Declan Kelly CEO at Teneo stresses the importance of having a sound action plan before the need for one ever arises. Messaging to media, stakeholders and employees must be crafted carefully and should be as truthful and tactful as possible. Therefore, professionals need to establish a crisis communications process so company officials know when and how to defer to the public relations team who will be prepared to handle it.
Involve and Evolve
Employees at every level need to know where the business stands on the problem and what will be done to solve it. Because so much is at risk, the entire organization should be informed and actively involved in transmitting the correct messaging.
Also, employees can be a bellwether for how the public will perceive the issue and the company’s solutions, so their feedback can help the message evolve accordingly.
For a business at the center of a controversy, having the right strategy can mean the difference between successfully weathering the storm and irreparably damaging the company’s reputation.