Welcome back everyone! This is part four in a five part blog series, this series has focused on the public relations communication process. During the last three posts I discussed the the best ways to connect with an audience, how to creatively engage an audience, and the different types of consumers to target. Those first three topics worked well together and can be implemented during the same campaign. However, today’s post is going to focus on things to remember when the communication process fails.
This post will focus on the do’s and don’t’s of how to handle a crisis. If you would like to know the steps on managing a crisis please check out my other blog post “Tackling Crisis Management as a PR Pro”.
One way to approach a crisis is to understand what the problem is and the first step needed to help solve it. So I’m going to start this post by determining what exactly is a crisis. Crisis Communication can be best defined by the Business Dictionary as “The effort taken by a company to communicate with the public and stockholders when an unexpected event occurs that could have a negative impact on the company’s reputation”. Basically this means when a negative situation arises, the company must work to solve the issue and try to keep company’ reputation intake.
A crisis can be different for every company and the best way to handle it depends on each situation. As always the best way to deal with a crisis is to make sure it doesn’t happen. Crisis prevention is the one way to help ensure the company’s reputation stays intact.
However, even with preparation problems can still occur. So here are some ways you can positively handle a crisis.
- Determine the Severity of the Crisis
Is it a nationwide crisis or is it posted all over social media? Can it be handle within the company or do outside parties have to intervene? Determine the severity of the crisis before decieding on a courses of action. By understanding the problem, you can best start to handle it.
- Understand the Emotions Involved
Depending on the situation the public could be angry or upset. Try to tune in and address their emotions. This lets the public know the company cares and what’s to rectify the situation.
- Be Honest
Most lies will be discovered and that could cause another crisis to arise and that’s an even bigger mess to clean up! By telling the truth, even if it’s unpleasant, will eventually get better in time. Whereas a lie can continue to follow the company into the future.
- Take Responsibility
Admit where the mistake was made. It’s best to acknowledge that mistakes and accidents happen, rather than trying to pass the blame onto another company, person, or inadequate reason.
- Have One Consistent Spokesperson
Choose the best person to become the company spokesperson when addressing the public and media about the crisis. The reason for having only one spokesperson is to help provide consistency to the public; this provides them with a consistent familiar face.
Now that you know some positive ways to handle a crisis, here are some things you should avoid doing during the crisis.
- Taking Too Much Time to Respond to the Situation
After a crisis occurs the PR team needs to quickly gather with the appropriate people and put together a plan. It’s important this happens as soon as possible. If it takes too long for the company to publicly address the situation, the more difficult it will be to handle the backlash.
- Don’t Respond with “No Comment”
When those words are used, it gives the illusion the company is trying to hide information. By providing some, even small, information can show the public you are addressing the issue. The only time it’s acceptable to not provide information is when there is a legal reasoning. However, even in that case it’s still best to respond with “Legally, I am not able to provide that information” rather than saying “no comment”.
- Don’t Make Promises
When you are addressing the public, be careful not to make promises that can’t be kept. Be honest if you don’t know when you will have more information. Because if you promise to provide something at a certain time and the promise isn’t kept, it will look unreliable and make it even more difficult to manage the crisis.
To sum up this post remember to review the crisis and determine its’ severity and be aware of how the crisis is affecting the public and everyone else involved. Then after a crisis management plan is created, choose the best spokesperson to handle all the communication to the public. Be sure to address the crisis as soon as possible, even if it’s just to let everyone know the problem is being addressed. Finally, be honest throughout the whole event of what is going on and take responsibility if it’s needed.
Overall, just be aware of your surroundings and try to understand the crisis as much as possible. Work together with the PR team, the company’s president, and anyone else the crisis pertains to.
Be sure to check back to my next post for the final part of this blog series focusing on how our culture in society affects the communication process!