When public relations disasters strike, it's imperative for companies to do what they can to swiftly put out the flames. Of course, while there is no one-size-fits-all solution for all PR messes, there are consistencies in steps to avoid.
Whether you’re dealing with an environmental disaster, an internal scandal, or a hacking crisis, it’s crucial to remember that the way you choose to respond will have a direct impact on the financial future of your company. For tips on procedures to avoid, here’s a look at the 4 mistakes too many companies make with PR.
Keeping The Problem At Arm’s Length
You never want to claim to be innocent one day and plead guilty the next. There’s no easier way of losing your integrity than lying about or attempting to cover up your blunders. The number one mistake a company can make when dealing with a PR issue is to avoid making a statement or deny that they ever did anything wrong. Keep in mind that silence says volumes as well. So, your best bet is to make a statement detailing your attempts to get to the heart of the problem and find a solution immediately. Whatever you do, never deny that you’ve made a mistake if you have. At some point or another, the truth will come to light, and if you deny facts, in the beginning, they will ultimately have a negative impact on how others perceive your brand. Clients, customers, and potential investors or partners will have a hard time believing your claims when you try to move forward.
Lacking a Tangible and Swift Action Plan
When you come face to face with a PR crisis, always keep in mind that your consumers aren’t going to want to be stonewalled. Remember, your patrons aren't looking for excuses, they just want honest answers and results. Holding off for too long on responding to a crisis that occurs will only create additional uncertainty amongst your client base. Not only will this scare and frustrate people, but it will also quickly drive them away and into the arms of your competitors. Avoid losing your customers by taking visible actionto show them your company is actively working to make amends and are finding a solution to the problem it has created. Failing to hit the ground running on addressing a problem will push others to wonder how seriously you’re taking an issue and if you plan to create any action. Never take the lax approach.
Appearing To Be Insincere
Back in 2015, 53 people in nine states were sickened with the same strain of E. coli they had eaten at Chipotle. Up until that point, Chipotle had marketed itself as a company with fresh ingredients and naturally raised meat that was healthier than their rivals. When the news about the outbreak erupted, some of the stores responded with snarky signs on their door. One in Portland read “Don’t panic … order should be restored to the universe in the very near future.” The company didn’t address the issue with an apology right away, and ultimately they lost a large chunk of their customer base’s trust. These days,fewer people associate Chipotle with the word “healthy” now.
While the company is still up and running, there’s a lesson to be learned from Chipotle’s experience. The last thing a company in crisis mode needs is a smug comment or appearance from a brand executive or representative. The only thing this does is help build the public’s perception that the company 1) doesn’t care about its customers, and 2) feels as if they’re above the mistake. Maintaining a real attitude will always go a long way in earning back your customers' trust, particularly amid a wrongdoing.
Thinking A News Statement Will Clear The Air
News statements aren’t as useful as they used to be for businesses. For one, if you’re running a small business getting time to air your grievances on television can be a bit pricey during a time in which the financial future of your company is a bit wobbly. Additionally, they won’t always reach the vast majority of audiences who are no longer signing up for cable subscriptions or buying newspapers. Your best bet in getting your apology or statement across to the public is to use all of your platforms (blogs, social media, company website) to connect with the audience and give your consumers all of the information that they could need.