*End of year reflections on crisis communications*
You are never too good, too renowned, or too small to have a PR crisis.
If you want publicity and media coverage you have to accept that the media are curious minds. They’re an intelligent lot, dedicated to the causes of knowledge, openness, creating discussion and things that don’t quite add up.
All the while, the public's hunger to consume information is seemingly insatiable.
So how much information is too much to share? But what if your intentions are good? And should you ever play down an issue?
From a bad Facebook review to a full-blown paradigm shift of public consciousness– a PR crisis can hit any organisation. From non-for-profits and solopreneurs to globally renowned household brands, no organisation is immune to bad publicity.
1. Tell your story - before someone else does
A solopreneur was one week out from the launch of her website. She had just reached out to chosen influencers to help spread the word about her product. Unfortunately, one turned sour. A so-called influencer made claims to a Facebook Group with an audience of 35,000 that the solopreneur had lied, infringed on copyright and that her business and intentions were questionable. The business owner fronted up with grace and honesty following the crisis. Nevertheless, the crisis could have been averted, had a strategic analysis and a clear communications plan been made prior to the influencer outreach.
2. Be prepared
Just because your company makes the world a better place, it doesn’t mean you’ll always get positive press. A social enterprise in Auckland who has fed over 600,000 lunches to children in poverty recently came under fire for the value it holds most dear to its heart - transparency. They had never been questioned about it by a journalist before. Unfortunately, their run of good press coverage meant the CEO was blindsided during this television interview. Her open, positive, energetic answers (understandably) retracted into defensive, unprepared stumbling. Again, this could have been mitigated with some planning.
3. Front up!
A small town public school was the centre of bad publicity following a violent bullying incident which was filmed and spread on social media. The public responded to the incident by claiming the school had a long-standing and ingrained bullying culture. Rather than acknowledging the crisis and apologising to victims the principal wrote a public statement in an attempt to normalise bullying-type behaviour and to say the offenders were of a small number. Not only did this statement forget to apologise to the victims, but it did not address the actual crisis specifically, what was being done to rectify the current issue and what steps they would take in the future to prevent this happening again.
1. Prevent a crisis with strategic risk assessment and regular communications
2. Acknowledge the crisis
3. Apologise to any victims
4. Say that you will take action
5. Report back on said action
What are your experiences in dealing with a communications crisis? Have you seen an organisation get grilled recently? What should they have done to respond better? Can you share some do’s and don’t's?