In the PR industry we are extremely lucky. In what sense you may be thinking? Yeah, I know PR has been rated in the top 5 of the world’s most stressful jobs…and of course there is a reason for that. Nevertheless, in the middle of all of that we are lucky to be in the minority of jobs that are unpredictable, exciting, buzzing, interesting, constantly changing and each day is always different than the next.
We have been working on a number of new business pitches, where we get to plan the strategic thinking and recommend the tactical approaches for a number of businesses throughout the ME region. Recently, we have been given the opportunity to work on a pitch for a client that has highlighted an element of PR that we don’t get to work on a lot, which has us rather excited, and that is crisis management.
It is important to always keep in mind that a business’s reputation is everything and that reputation, in business, much as in life, are fragile and one little mistake can possibly cause permanent damage to a company’s image. This is true now more than ever with the emergence of Social Media and the popularity of the digital world. Companies need to listen, effectively communicate and respond in a way that aligns both brand messaging as well as consumer expectations.
Let’s take a look at some basic rules in handling crisis management
1. There is no excuse for being unprepared
Ensure that you keep your crisis plan up to date and simple, this should be a live document that gets amended and changed on a yearly basis at least. Do not wait for something to happen before understanding what it is your crisis plan outlines.
2. 48 hours
These 48 hours are crunch time, if you do not communicate something within that time frame you can be sure that someone will and the information they share may be inaccurate, create the wrong perception and take months to fix and overcome. It is impossible to over communicate during a crisis.
3. Listen and be present
You need to be aware of what people are saying, listen to your customers, acknowledge their concerns and ensure that you respond to them and treat their issues with importance. Simply dismissing an issue will not make it go away.
Trying to cover up justified but negative comments can make you look as if you are ignoring a problem or, worse off, don’t care about the customers. It is important to be honest and upfront about any issues your company may be facing. Making mistakes is human, if you have made a mistake, admit, apologise and correct.
5. Social Media Management
Make sure you limit the number of people who have access to your social media forums to knowledgeable community managers who have the right training and experience in this field. It is also important that if your employees are on social media forums they are aware that they represent your company, and they need to maintain a certain online image that aligns with that of your company messaging and branding.
6. Every crisis is an opportunity
In the midst of crisis, there is opportunity, yes, there is risk involved, but do not be afraid to seize the opportunity, should it arise.
If you ever find yourself in a crisis remember to take a deep breath, take one step at a time, maintain a live crisis plan with key messaging and keep open, transparent communication lines between yourself, the media and your customers.