It seems right now that there’s a company in crisis every other day. From high profile company layoffs to cancel culture, to Elon Musk putting his foot in it yet again, the internet has ratcheted up the frequency and speed with which a crisis can take hold.
So how can you 1) prevent a crisis from occurring in the first place and 2) minimise the impact if it does? We’ve put together our top tips for crisis comms in a digital PR world.
Prevention is better than cure
Not just something your doctor would say – it also applies in a PR crisis. Building up that goodwill bank is vital, and it comes from doing and saying the right thing. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of crises come out of brands saying one thing and doing another, paticularly when it comes to sustainability, representation and discrimination. Brands like Glossier have been hit wil allegations of racism and toxic workplace culture that is completely at odds with their social media presence. The most important message for brands is to act how they say they will. This means everything from who they hire, to how they talk internally, to their policies and procedures. While you may not have a whole lot of control over all these elements, it pays to be mindful about where your brand might not be walking the walk.
Keep your finger on the pulse
While some crises will rear their ugly heads out of nowhere, there are plenty of tools to help you monitor sentiment particularly on social media. While these tools can be expensive, there are free and more affordable options (check out this post for a list of them). Try setting up a Google alert for your brand so you’re notified whenever someone talks about your brand online or take a quick peek at your online reviews once a month to see if there’s any common trends.
Always be communicating
This is applicable for every layer of your business. For example, if someone leaves you a negative review, someone in the business should be responsible for responding. Keep responses open to the public so that anyone searching and finding those negative reviews can see how you’ve tried to handle the situation. Customers understand that there will always be negative feedback, but they really want to see that you’ve acknowledged and addressed it.
Communication isn’t just reserved for the public or your customers – make sure your employees are always in the loop with what’s happening in the business. Disgruntled employees can easily reach out to the press and tell their stories, so it’s important for your business to keep an eye on employee sentiment. Always err on the side of over-communication rather than keeping people in the dark, as employees are more likely to be unhappy if gossip is spreading unchecked.
Don’t leave it to the intern
So many businesses let the intern manage their social media – which is where they get into trouble. Social media can be the wild west of communications – without a clear guideline for what is appropriate for your brand, individuals can say things that aren’t aligned with the organisation. It might not be because of any malicious intent – without experience, it can be hard to know what’s appropriate. If your intern is managing your social media, have an approval process in place, or a set of guidelines for your tone of voice, and a way to make sure you can always access social media channels if someone goes rogue.
Make the most of media training
There’s nothing worse than not having a media trained spokesperson you can trust to front up and share your side of the story. Don’t leave media training until after a crisis hits – make sure your spokespeople are receiving regular training regardless of whether they need to face the media or not. Also make sure you’ve got more than one stakeholder trained – if it’s your CEO who’s gone off the rails, you’ll need to have a second in command ready to step in and talk to the press.
Remember, it’s only temporary
While you most certainly want to do everything you can to mitigate against a full-blown media crisis, and make sure you’re working hard to right any wrongs you might have committed, remember that the news cycle moves so very quickly these days. While it might seem like the end of the world today, customers will have moved on by tomorrow. This is particularly true of brands that have built up their goodwill bank, and that are genuinely trying hard to fix any issues that resulted in a crisis in the first place. Remember to look after yourself, get plenty of sleep and nutritious food so that you’re able to look at any crisis with clear eyes and make the best decisions for your brand.
Want to know more about avoiding PR disasters? Read our comprehensive guide to managing a PR crisis, our article on identifying and preventing mistakes made by almost every creative business, or find out how to keep your company in the good books with everyone from difficult clients to interns?
Image via Emma Read