Fail to prepare – Prepare to fail – Crisis Management in PR

Equality seems to be a recurring theme in our #PRMomentofTheMonth fails. Last month we dealt with the considerations that have to be made when women are featured in a photo call. This month, lots of the PR crises have women and equality at their core; Pepsi, United Airlines, our own Irish Women’s International Soccer Team and of course the National Maternity Hospital.

On one hand it’s hard to believe that these conversations are still going on month-on-month, on the other, these unfortunate events highlight the importance of PR crisis management and how good crisis management can potentially turn a complete disaster into something more positive for a company.

The old cliché that ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ doesn’t exactly ring true in every circumstance but how a PR disaster is handled in the immediate aftermath is key and is the difference between the company keeping afloat and it sinking without trace.

The key to addressing a PR crisis is to identify what you want to achieve. Do you need to clarify your intention, or apologise? The worst thing you can do is pretend it never happened, ignore it and hope it will go away. Saying nothing will imply that there is more to it than meets the eye and it can make things spiral out of control.

Acknowledgement is seen as honest and responsible, and human. We all make mistakes. In fact, coming across as fallible can be an asset – depending of course on how you deal with the fall-out!

Getting the right comeback is key but the speed at which you respond to a PR disaster is also critical. Obviously, you will need to give some thought as to what is the most appropriate response but taking too much time can look like you are giving too much thought and so can be seen as too considered and less instinctive and honest and again, less human.

So what if you’re not a massive brand with a gigantic budget for TV advertising? You’ll probably be using social media to engage your clients and new customers. However, it can also lead to PR disasters too – a dodgy tweet or a badly handled reply to a complaint or a bad customer review can go viral within minutes. In this scenario it is again important to weigh up what your reply should be (apology / reply / restate your original intention?), and do it as quickly as is possible. Don’t delete the original. This just makes you look guilty and again, like you’ve something to hide. Own your mistake and make your response heard, in an honest and human way.

Sit with your PR advisory team and plan a recovery.  Try to create some positive engaging content that will put a positive spin on your brand for the coming months. And though you’re not hiding what happened, you’re showing your best side; putting your best foot forward.


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