The past month has been quite a rollercoaster ride for companies like United Airlines, Pepsi, and United Airlines (again) who found themselves in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. At GreenRoom, we thought it prudent to put together four quick dos and don’ts when faced with a crisis. In the case that Oliva Pope doesn’t pick up the phone when you call, it’s critical to have a plan, which leads me to our first piece of advice:
DO have a plan of execution
With the amount of time spent planning announcements, marketing campaigns, trade show logistics, or even a vacation, the thought of having a “crisis communication” plan tends to fall to the wayside. Ensuring a designated spokesperson is prepared, and the message to media contacts is clear, having both an internal and external order of operations helps streamline conversations in the event a brand is faced with a crisis.
DON’T wait until the crisis comes
As you can imagine, this is easier said than done. Your day is filled with attending to pressing matters that could determine whether you hit your fiscal year’s goal, and the last thing you want to focus on is a hypothetical situation that may never occur. Generally, when corporate entities scramble, it’s very clear to the public and companies typically begin making terrible decisions. The potential snowball effect can lead to unintended consequences that prolong a crisis.
DO view the situation from the audiences’ point of view
Once the crisis presents itself, take a step back and understand who is truly being affected and why. Sometimes when a company finds themselves in a crisis, the reasons aren’t always obvious, and other times it’s right in your face. Social media offers the ability to see the conversation in real time and can give perspective on the situation which can lead to a more effective and compassionate solution.
DON’T assume the audience is wrong or overreacting
The term “PR nightmare” exists for a few reasons and often arises out of an expectation that was amiss. Perhaps a concept was not meant to be insensitive but was perceived in a way that unleased a tornado of backlash. While it’s impossible to always know what someone will think, trying to view a campaign from a multitude of angles can avoid a misunderstanding. However, it’s always important to exercise empathy in the wake of something the public deems offensive.
DO move quickly
In the PR world, timing is EVERYTHING. Whether you’re preparing a launch event and need to assure a high volume of press coverage is published or looking to secure longer-lead opportunities for a seasonal marketing initiative, it is imperative that everything is timed correctly so you don’t miss what could be a major opportunity for brand awareness. The same thing applies in a crisis situation! Once a fire starts you need to begin putting it out before it burns down a village. This is closely intertwined with preparation, so you’re not wasting valuable time bouncing ideas off one another (in an already stressful situation), and immediately begin executing your plan and mend your brand.
DON’T wait it out
In a world of 24-hour Snapchat Stories (or at this point, Facebook and Instagram stories), it can be very easy to assume that certain things will blow over soon enough. While that may be the case, companies that find themselves in a crisis learn rather quickly that sitting on the sideline can only make matters worse. When someone wants an answer, they want it now!
DO be transparent
When you find yourself with your reputation on the line, the last thing you want to do is add fuel to the fire and give people more of a reason to be upset or distrusting. Honesty and clarity are key. Explain the situation in conversational language and paint a clear picture on how you plan to resolve the issue. There are always two sides of a story, and sometimes it takes a company explaining their side of the story to help clarify misconceptions. By not addressing the issue head on, the audience can become even more unforgiving and elevate the situation to unfixable levels. Always be honest and never mislead, which takes us to our final don’t…
This one is a no-brainer but has been ignored in the wake of a crisis when people are not thinking clearly in tense situations. While it may seem like an easy way out, the moment it comes to light that a company lied, trust is violated, which is something consumers take quite seriously. You don’t have to take our word for it, just ask Samsung.
There is no perfect formula to resolving a crisis, as some situations can take months or even years to fix. Being prepared and having a plan of action can go a long way when you find yourself in this situation. However, if you’re a company that can do-no-wrong, there are still plenty of great reasons to hire a PR agency. Keep in mind though, there isn’t a company on this planet that is immune to a crisis, as we learned when media darling and source of nutrition for Millennials was put on the spot – I’m of course talking about Chipotle.
Do you have any crisis communication tips to share? Comment to tell us your insights!