These days, encountering a full-blown PR crisis is anything but a rare occurrence. Given the nature of the Internet and consumer habits in general, it takes little more than one item of particular negative feedback to send your reputation into a downward spiral.
The problem being that when this happens, far too many small businesses adopt the ‘ostrich’ approach. That being, to bury their head in the sand and wait for things to blow over. Unfortunately, this is the single worst thing you can do when facing a PR crisis.
So for business owners who prefer to take a more proactive approach, here’s how a PR crisis should be handled:
- Anticipate Issues Ahead of Time
First up, you’re inherently less likely to panic in a crisis if you are sufficiently prepared. Cold comfort if the proverbial has already hit the fan, but an important lesson to learn for next time nonetheless. Every strategic business plan should factor every worst-case scenario into the equation. Always think ahead of time what might go wrong, what could go wrong and what is likely to go wrong. Anticipate issues and prepare for them in advance.
- Avoid Knee-Jerk Reactions
While it’s true to say that doing nothing is the worst thing you can do, the second worst response to a PR crisis is a knee-jerk reaction. On one hand, it’s important to take decisive action as quickly as possible. On the other, taking action in the heat of the moment based on emotions and blind panic really is a big mistake. Take a step back, take time to cool off and examine the situation for what it is.
- Take Responsibility…Carefully
Under no circumstances should you ever admit to something you haven’t done. Particularly, if the problem in question is somewhat on the serious or controversial side. However, you should absolutely take responsibility to such an extent that you sympathise with the person or persons affected, communicating your genuine concern and sadness regarding the outcome. You have every intention of making things right, even though you’ve technically done nothing wrong. Of course, if you are well and truly in the wrong, you’ll need to come clean. The human touch really can make all the difference when dealing with a PR crisis.
- Manage Short and Long-Term Expectations
In some instances, it will be fundamentally impossible to put things right in the short-term. Whatever has happened may be too severe or complex to solve at the snap of a finger. If this is the case, you need to plan your short and long-term approach carefully. Think about what you can do now, what needs to be held in reserve for later and so on.
- Learn and Move On
Last but not least, licking your proverbial wounds and playing the dying swan simply isn’t going to benefit your business. There’s barely a successful brand in the world that hasn’t gone through any number of PR crises over the years. What makes the difference is that while some feel sorry for themselves, others learn from their mistakes and move on with renewed strength. It’s no secret that mistakes are what allow businesses and people in general to both learn and becomes stronger – PR crises are no exception to the rule.