How to Navigate A PR Crisis In Six Simple Steps

Bad reviews. An executive scandal. International data breach. A product malfunction. These are all examples of a PR crisis that many businesses have had to overcome, and they won’t be the last.

 

In today’s age of social media and innovation, the likelihood of a business facing a PR crisis continues to soar. While no one expects you to be perfect, how you respond can either give you a much-needed image boost or significantly damage your brand, alienating your customer base.

 

When a crisis does arise, use these helpful tips to navigate through the storm:

 

Appoint a response team.

Every business should already have a response team in place before a crisis hits to help ensure the right people are speaking on behalf of the company. This allows the organization to respond faster and speak with one voice, which can be difficult to achieve when multiple people are speaking on the company’s behalf.

 

The response team should be small and include the CEO, the company’s top PR executives and legal counsel. If the company’s PR executive does not have sufficient crisis communication expertise, consider retaining an agency with that specialty.

 

In addition, when a PR crisis occurs, each member of the response team should understand their role and responsibilities to help avoid confusion as well as any cross-over of duties.

 

Brief your team.

Once the strategy has been determined, relay the protocol to all persons who could be approached to speak on the company’s behalf. This means informing all employees, stakeholders, board members, etc., of who is to be speaking with the media and how they can direct any inquiries.

 

Craft your message.

Once the facts about the incident have been gathered, the team should agree on how to frame the response. When it comes to the response, think about the most transparent way to address the situation and what your company has done or will do about it – without placing external blame. In the response, be honest and open with your audience.

 

Once the message is crafted, it needs to be delivered in a timely manner. The sooner you apologize and admit the mistake, the sooner the public will forgive you. A prime example of a crisis being resolved correctly is how Starbucks handled their recent scandal by apologizing in a public statement, taking responsibility for the occurrence and making it clear that it won’t happen again.

 

Identify and address the affected parties.

Once the message has been crafted, identify the people who should know about the situation. This may include employees, stakeholders, business partners, customers and media. Audiences who need to be informed will depend on the context of the situation, but regardless of who’s receiving the message, you should make sure it is sent out in a timely manner.

 

Monitor the situation.

Assessing the brand’s image is especially important following a PR crisis, so keep an eye on inbound and outbound communications to address follow-up questions or concerns.

 

It’s also important to also track what people are saying about a company online. One way to do this is by establishing a monitoring system that quickly uncovers negative trends before they become a bigger problem and migrate to the media.

 

Dittoe PR uses TrendKite to track and monitor media coverage for clients, which allows us to look at the company’s media coverage, share of voice, sentiment, social media amplification, competitors’ coverage and more.

 

Review and learn from the situation.

Once the crisis is over, conduct a post-action review to determine how well your staff and management handled the situation. During the review, discuss what you could have done differently and what changes are necessary to prevent a similar situation.

 

What not to do.

When you come face-to-face with a PR crisis, stay away from these tactics:

 

  • Lashing out: Even if a media outlet or opposing party has said something false about your company, it is never a good idea to respond negatively or blame the complaint for the situation.

 

  • Offering no comment: Not having answers to potential questions is the worst thing you can do during a crisis. If you don’t have enough information to give a solid response, say so and assure that you will issue a statement when you have more details.

 

  • Responding too quickly: Handling a PR crisis is all about timing, so don’t give an answer prematurely before you know all the facts. This may cause you to contradict previous statements later could further damage your reputation.

 

 

  • Dwelling on the situation: A period of bad press is often just a hiccup on your path to success, so don’t let it completely distract you from continuing daily business responsibilities.

 

  • Avoid assembling a plan: Almost all crises can be avoidable with the right planning. Don’t wait until the last minute to assemble a thorough crisis communications plan.

Finding a Work-Life Balance in a Hyper-Connected World

Balancing your personal life and your work can be challenging for some, especially in the always-on world of PR. There will always be a situation that warrants a rapid response, a reporter to pitch or a strategic plan to assemble. While the PR world is exciting and ever-changing, it also seeps into our personal life and can make establishing boundaries extremely difficult. If you’re struggling to separate work from your personal life, here are a few ways to help step away from your desk and return to the office refreshed.

 

Stay organized.

While it may seem counterintuitive to add a little work time into your weekend, taking the time to organize for the week ahead can make all the difference for achieving a healthy work-life balance. Taking less than 30 minutes on a Sunday afternoon to think through your top priorities and getting organized for the week ahead can make all the difference.

 

Wake up early.

Waking up early can be tough, but make it a daily habit. Take  an extra hour in the morning to do something for yourself before you plunge into your daily routine. For some, it might be meditating, reading or watching the news. For others, it might be getting a head start on laundry or cooking a healthy breakfast. Whatever you choose to do, do it for yourself. This will help start the day off right.

 

Exercise.

Experts agree that increasing physical activity has a multitude of benefits for health and stress management. Not a fan of the gym? That’s fine. Find a new physical outlet that gets your heart racing such as boxing, yoga or cycling. Life and work will both reap immediate benefits of physical activity in the form of stress relief, endorphin release and increased functional capacity.

 

Don’t be afraid to take breaks.

Lunch breaks were created for a reason. Take advantage of this time to pencil in an activity to rejuvenate and get ready to tackle the second half of the day. For instance, many Dittoe PR employees enjoy using this hour to go to the gym, run errands or take their dog for a walk. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to take the time to treat yourself.

 

Disconnect.

Balancing work life and home life is not always simple, especially when getting pinged by email notifications day-in and day-out. Try putting your phone away while with friends, family or significant others to make it a little easier to avoid the distractions. This will help emphasize the importance of relationships with loved ones but also allow you to stay more focused at work by not dwelling on missed plans or quality time.

 

Establish a no-work zone.

Another way to disconnect is to establish a work-free zone. As someone who is newly married with a husband who also works around the clock, work-free zones have been a perfect solution to ensure we’re not working all evening and to focus on each other. A work-free zone bans you from checking email, taking business phone calls and doing office work on the computer. By setting up a safe haven, you have a dedicated time and space for connecting with your loved ones and escaping the demands of work.

 

Don’t compromise on sleep.

Most people fail to realize the importance of sleep. Instead of treating it as a luxury, make it a necessity by establishing a sleep schedule. This will help produce a healthy body and make it easier to be more productive at the office, allowing you the ability to (hopefully) leave on time.

 

Communicate when workload is excessive.

A work-life balance can fall to pieces simply because an increased workload. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to communicate the volume of your workload to teammates or leadership team. Through these conversations, find ways to reduce the impact by extending the deadline or bringing on other teammates to delegate the work.

Interested in working at Dittoe PR? Check out our Careers page here to see if you would be a good candidate.

Five Lessons From 2017’s Biggest PR Fails

2017 debunked the myth “all press is good press” as we experienced some of the most gut-wrenching PR disasters that created major setbacks for a handful global corporations. While these major mishaps were difficult to watch, each crisis provided amazing real-life teaching moments for public relations professionals everywhere. As we celebrate the New Year, let’s take a look at some of the companies that are still recuperating from their self-inflicted PR mistakes.

 

UNITED AIRLINES

The Crisis: 2017 unleashed a never-ending cycle of PR disasters for United Airlines. Most notably, the airline took the worst hit in the company’s 90-year history when a passenger was dragged off an overbooked plane, breaking his nose and knocking out teeth in the process. The incident was recorded by onlookers’ camera phones and immediately circulated on social media.

Once notified of the situation, United CEO Oscar Munoz made it even worse by apologizing for “having to re-accommodate these customers” and then later said in a leaked employee email about the incident that “employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this.” This came just one month after he was named 2017 U.S. Communicator of the Year by PR Week.

The company’s poor response to a customer incident caused its stock to drop $1 billion in value and has placed the entire airline industry under the microscope.

The Lesson: If you’d be ashamed for millions of people to see something your company does, don’t do it. Instead, if you need to inconvenience a customer, be willing to negotiate with them and never force it. Furthermore, if a problem does arise, remember that “the customer is always right.” This customer-centric mindset also needs to be evident in your crisis communications plan both internally and externally. In statements, never blame the victim but acknowledge the mistake and offer a heartfelt apology.

 

PAPA JOHN’S PIZZA

The Crisis: As one of the biggest sponsors of the National Football League (NFL), Papa John’s came under fire as CEO John Schnatter attempted to link its declining pizza sales to NFL players’ national anthem protests and that it might cease its sponsorship if the protests continued. Schnatter’s stance earned the support from The Daily Storm, a neo-Nazi newspaper, who even adopted the company as the “official pizza chain for the alt-right.” Schnatter was forced to issue a statement asking the group to stop eating his pizza, hoping to halt the PR disaster, and resigned as CEO.

The Lesson: Any business issues being addressed in a public-facing statement, such as social media, need to be approved by the chain of command listed in a communications plan. Even with the relaxed demeanor of social media channels like Facebook or Twitter, these posts need to be vetted out to determine any repercussions that may arise.

 

EQUIFAX

The Crisis: Equifax experienced one of the largest data breaches ever that affected more than 143 million customers. Not only was it being investigated by the SEC and multiple states along with hundreds of lawsuits, but Equifax also sat on the news for six weeks. To make matters worse, four well-informed company executives sold $1.8 million in stock well before the news became public.

Once the breach was disclosed, Equifax tried to charge comprised customers a fee for the privilege of protecting themselves and freezing their credit. Although it later waived the fee after public outrage, the damage was done. To this day, Equifax has still yet to tell anyone how hackers infiltrated the system or how the company is preventing it from happening again.

The Lesson: Transparency is key. When a problem arises, it needs to be disclosed sooner rather than later or else the perception will be deceiving rather than proactive. A company also needs to focus on promising corrective action and then effectively following through.

 

DOVE SOAP FACEBOOK POST

The Crisis: Dove has always been a huge advocate for inclusivity and diversity. For instance, it’s long-running “Real Beauty” campaign has celebrated the natural physical variation of women and invoked a new level of self-confidence in females of all ages worldwide. However, the brand experienced major backlash when the company produced a Facebook GIF showing an African American woman taking off her shirt to reveal a Caucasian woman. Social media users called it “racist” and “insensitive,” interpreting it as a message implying the dark skin was dirty and would be cleaned after using Dove soap. Realizing the error, Dove removed the post and issued an apology.

The Lesson: Given how many brands fumble in getting respectful messaging across about race and diversity, it’s vital for all communicators to ensure their brands have an internal review process for all creative content. This helps companies nix off-mark messaging long before it reaches the public. Although it may delay creative processes, gathering multiple viewpoints through audits of inclusion and diversity practices will help brands from “missing the mark” in the future.

 

CHEERIOS

The Crisis: It’s no secret that there is an issue with the world’s declining bee population. Naturally, Cheerios seem like the perfect brand to raise awareness of the honeybee’s critical role as a pollinator of many of the world’s most important crops. So, Cheerios’ parent company General Mills partnered with Canadian company Vesays Seeds Ltd. and distributed 1.5 billion wildflower seeds to customers to help with bee habitat restoration.

However, the promotion turned controversial when it was discovered that the packets sent out included seeds for plants that were invasive in some states and banned in others. In addition, ecologists revealed some of the seeds could pose a significant threat if introduced outside their native range. Cheerios pushed back on the accusations by sharing reactionary statements via social media, but the damage was done.

The Lesson: The public back-and-forth between experts and General Mills caused major confusion among consumers on the authenticity of the campaign. Even if the seeds may not have been invasive, the lack of consumer awareness and education on the ecology industry larger construed whether the campaign was truly good-hearted or just a PR ploy. Instead of shipping a basic mix of seeds that included some that were not native to America, General Mills should have used native flower specific to specific locations and made that evident in campaign content. It may have been more expensive and time-consuming, but the overall message would have been better accepted.

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