The Crisis Communication Plan: How to Avoid Potential PR Disaster
Whether you are a small organization or a large-scale enterprise, a PR crisis can hit your business any time. Even a small negligence on part of the company can ruin its reputation and lead to a PR nightmare. A lot of organizations do not know how to respond to such disasters. However, some companies have proved that a crisis communication plan can be a potential game-changer whenever disaster strikes.
Some of the organizations which have managed a PR crisis well in the past are Pepsi for a controversial ad in 2017 starring Kendall Jenner, Southwest Airlines for the Flight 1380 crisis, and Starbucks for a racism controversy.
Wondering what these brands did to save them from PR disaster?
If yes, you are at the right place. Read the steps below to understand how to better avoid potential PR disasters.
1. Pre-Crisis Plan
Understand the type of industry in which you are operating. Try to anticipate all types of crises that can hit your business. For example, if you own a restaurant, your employees or customers can threaten to spoil your image. Some incidences that could result in a PR disaster could be due to poor customer service, bad quality of food served, or a negative work environment. Get as specific as possible: anticipate what your response would be for each incident, write it down, and follow-through your response with confidence should a negative event take place.
2. The Response Team
Build a Crisis Management Team, and put it under the supervision of a PR Manager. Add people to this team who can understand what should be said and done at the time of crisis. A PR Manager will also help you figure out when to give a response and what it should be. If you do not have a PR Manager, consider working with a public relations firm that can be “on standby” and available to assist as needed.
3. Take Responsibility and Apologize
Do not blame any single employee, even if he/she has done the wrong thing. Employees are key members of your company, and you are responsible for their wellbeing. Starbucks, instead of blaming an employee for an incident, took responsibility upfront and apologized. They went a step further and gave racial sensitivity training to their employees by closing down its 8,000 stores for a day. Although the company sustained losses that day, it was able to quickly turn its image around.
4. Empathize with Victims
Understand the situation and what the victim has gone through. Empathize with them and try to facilitate a resolution to the issue in the best possible way. Southwest Airlines arranged hotel, travel, and counselors for the passengers who went through a plane’s emergency landing in Philadelphia after an engine exploded.
5. Be Transparent and Proactive
Be transparent in your communication. Choose the right spokesperson that can show compassion and company’s values. When Pepsi’s ad controversy started, the company gave a clear, straight-forward statement within 24 hours that it had missed the mark and apologized. Furthermore, they stopped airing that advertisement.
6. Be Prepared for the Backlash
For some serious issues, people might not accept your apology. Be prepared for backlash. It takes time to mitigate the damage that has been caused due to bad publicity.
7. Post-Crisis Plan
After you get past the crisis and normalcy returns, evaluate your statements and what you could have done better. Analyze what worked and what fell flat. Make necessary adjustments to your protocol to avoid such mistakes in the future. Learn from your experience and update your crisis management plan accordingly.