Not every company needs to hire a PR firm to manage its crisis communication. If you’ve got a solid marketing team, you can build your own DIY plan to ensure that if there ever is a PR crisis that threatens your business, you can keep it contained and prevent it from doing further damage.
Tip 1: Understand What a Communication Crisis Is
There’s a spectrum of crises, from something as huge as Land’s End ticking off anti-abortion audiences down to a ranting negative review on Yelp. Don’t assume that you can remain untouched, because even a few tweets about your brand can have a lasting unfavorable impact.
Tip 2: Imagine a Worst-Case Scenario
Brainstorm here: what’s the absolute worst thing that could happen to your brand PR-wise? Maybe a hair (or worse) could be found in your restaurant’s food. Maybe your employees could be caught being naughty in the women’s restroom. It can actually be helpful to imagine the worst possible trigger for a maelstrom of negative press, even if it never happens.
Tip 3: Develop a Holding Statement Template
Without knowing the specifics of what could go wrong, you can still create a holding statement that will be simple to edit on the fly if something does go awry. The statement should take a humble stance, never point fingers and try to put your brand in a good light again. Remember: its purpose is to put your existing customers at ease and keep others from being turned off from your brand. You can start with a “we’re looking into the situation” statement and update it when you have more information.
Tip 4: Assemble Your Crisis Team
You may need several people on this effort, from someone monitoring social media and ready to create a tweet-sized version of that holding statement when needed, to the person who will, if necessary, be the talking head for the crisis. Consider the crisis like a fire: a few “fire drills” — or brainstorming and training sessions — each year can keep your team on top of what they need to deftly do should a situation occur.
Tip 5: Monitor Incessantly
In this modern age of technology, PR crises happen at lightning speed. That’s why it’s critical that your team monitor what’s being said about your brand constantly across social media, customer review sites and other websites. This won’t require much work once keyword alerts are set up, but it does need to be checked in on daily.
Tip 6: Learn from Past Issues
If you’ve had even a tiny crisis, like a critical post on Facebook, learn from how your team handled it. What could be improved? Was your response time fast enough to nip the issue in the bud? Is that angry customer still at large or did you calm him down? It’s worth a post mortem meeting to go over any potential issues and lessons to learn for next time.
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