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Tips & Bits #40: Crisis? What crisis?

It happens now with ever increasing frequency. A company or a person in the spotlight gets caught behaving inappropriately or committing a crime. The next steps could lead to certain disaster or lead to a turnaround that can result in a repaired and strengthened public image.

Contrary to the old saying “Any PR is good PR,” you and your company can’t afford to appear before the public with a black eye without a good explanation. A little pre-crisis planning can help you be prepared should the unthinkable occur.

1. The Ostrich Approach Is Guaranteed To Fail

The strategy of thinking that, “This will blow over, people will forget when the next big news story comes along,” is usually dead wrong. A company must get involved as deeply and as soon as possible. By being open and accessible, you will have the opportunity to shape the unfolding of the story and quite possibly pre-empt further bad news from being released.  If you don’t tell the story – someone else will and they will not have your company’s best interests at heart.

A head in the sand approach is tempting when you feel overwhelmed with negative press. But avoiding and delaying the inevitable lets the situation grow worse. If an apology is due, make it as soon as possible – to wait only makes it seem less genuine.

2. You’ll Never Beat The Press.

As appealing as it is to duke it out with the press, that is another strategy that is doomed to failure. There are far more members of the Fourth Estate and outlets through which the story is spread than you can possibly face off with. Additionally, doing so is not really addressing the underlying problem.

It is far better to deal with the situation that caused the storm of opinion than to try to deflect it by engaging in a no-win battle with the press. The blogosphere may be making a mountain out of a molehill, but turning on the press will create volcano that is sure to erupt.

The lesson is simple: it never pays to shoot the messenger.

3. Address the Real Issue

Often, negative press reports indicate a larger underlying problem with the company.

For example: not only does the company make products that can possibly injure users, they don’t know how to respond when something bad does happen.

The customer comes first. Especially in times of crisis. A company must express genuine concern for the well being of its customers.

4. Step Up And Do The Right Thing

Here’s a simple outline of action items.

  1. Acknowledge the mistake.
  2. Admit any misconduct.
  3. Apologize to the individual and the community as a whole.
  4. Take actions to ensure that it won’t happen again.
  5. Communicate those actions to the public.

Yes. It is painful. And embarrassing, too. But people generally respond in a positive way when someone is willing to admit their faults and offer a genuine apology accompanied with a sincere attempt to restore the abused individual to their previous condition.

A lot of folks will say, “You know, that’s the kind of company I want to do business with.”

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