There is a lot that goes into running a business and, for the most part, it’s smooth sailing. However, sometimes problems happen and a PR crisis arises. A PR crisis refers to a significant event or situation that negatively impacts the reputation or image of your business. It could be caused by a wide range of things. For example, a restaurant would have a PR crisis if a lot of people fell ill after dining with them. Similarly, a car manufacturer would have a PR crisis if some of their vehicles were found to be unsafe. A PR crisis often involves public scrutiny and criticism, and potential damage to relationships with stakeholders. After all, stakeholders might not want to be associated with a business that’s viewed negatively by the public.
Effective PR crisis management and communication strategies are crucial to reduce the negative effects and to restore trust. PR crisis management focuses on mitigating the negative impact of the crisis. It involves developing strategies and taking actions to address the crisis, protect the reputation of the business and restore trust with stakeholders, investors and customers. The goal of PR crisis management is to minimise the damage caused by the problem and find a way to repair the damage.
Here are some of the key steps to take to successfully manage a PR crisis in business.
Acknowledge the Problem
A lot of PR crises are exacerbated by the company ignoring or downplaying a problem, which is the opposite of what a company should do when a problem arises. Regardless of the cause of the PR crisis, it’s important to act quickly and to take public responsibility for the issue. This shows that you are taking the situation seriously and are actively addressing it, rather than burying your head in the sand. You should also communicate openly and honestly about the situation, acknowledging any mistakes or shortcomings on your part.
Though it might be tempting to bend the truth slightly, as a way to paint the business in a more positive light, you should avoid misleading or withholding information. If the business or someone linked to the business is at fault, offer a genuine apology to anyone affected, as well as the wider audience. Taking responsibility for the situation demonstrates that you are committed to rectifying the issue and preventing it from happening again.
Communicate a Plan
Once you have acknowledged the problem, it’s time to communicate a plan. Your customers will want to know that you have a way to ensure that things are put right, and they will be reassured that similar issues won’t happen in future. It’s also important to communicate how you will move forward with stakeholders and investors, as they will want to know that the company they are linked to is able to redeem itself. When you are communicating a plan, thoroughly assess the situation to understand the facts, causes, and potential impact of everything that has happened. Develop a strategy with that in mind, giving clear objectives and messages that align with your business’ values.
Determine the most appropriate channels to communicate your messages, and select channels that spread the message to a large percentage of your audience. Ensure consistent messaging across all communication channels, including traditional media, social media and internal communications. Consistent messaging showcases togetherness and cohesiveness, and shows that the entire business is on the same page. It’s often a good idea to designate a spokesperson or team to handle communication, giving you the chance to manage the crisis in other ways.
Monitor the Solution
Though you might be putting a lot of time and energy into managing a PR crisis, it takes ongoing work. You need to monitor the solution and ensure that your efforts are having the desired effect. It’s worthwhile to speak to customers, and take on board their feedback to judge how well you are managing the crisis. Monitor social media and online platforms for mentions and discussions related to the crisis, and respond promptly to correct misinformation. Misinformation spreads quickly online, so don’t be shy about correcting people when it’s appropriate to do so. It’s important that everyone knows the facts, rather than rumours about the ins and outs of the problem. Speak to customers, provide updates and address concerns.
With this information, you can decide if more needs to be done. If everything is going to plan, consider when it would be appropriate to move on. You need to find a balance between acknowledging and addressing the problem, and moving on to give customers the chance to forget about what has happened.
Review and Learn
After you have successfully managed a PR crisis in business, once everything is resolved, you should review and learn from what happened. This will reduce the chances of another PR crisis happening, which could be harder for you to come back from. Analyse how effective your response to the PR crisis was and determine if you could have done anything differently. Identify lessons learned and areas for improvement in your crisis management strategies. There’s a lot to be learned from a PR crisis and this can make you better equipped to handle any future problems.
Internally, you could enact policies and provide staff training, which will help the business as a whole avoid something similar happening in the future. Publicly, highlight what the business has learned from the crisis, and focus your attention on winning back the trust of your customers. With PR crisis management, a business can successfully overcome even the most stressful of PR nightmares.
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.