While some celebrities might suggest there's no such thing as bad publicity, the tired old phrase rarely rings true when it comes to those operating outside the entertainment world.
Understanding the dangers of a PR crisis
Whether it's recalling vehicles due to safety concerns or releasing a report acknowledging contaminated food products, there are myriad reasons why organisations may face a PR crisis. Given how quickly consumers can spread information via the internet and social media channels, these moments have the potential to wreak some serious havoc on your brand's reputation.
As media intelligence services can reveal, the depth of these effects hinges largely on how an organisation's PR and crisis management team reacts. In these code-red scenarios, it's essential that you do your best to contain the disaster. You may not be able to prevent the crisis, but there are a number of things you can do to minimise its destructive effects:
1. Identify key influencers
Media monitoring tools can reveal your key influencers.
In most situations, you should address your key influencers (the people who have a high level of authority in your target market) first. Why? Well, they're typically the most vocal, have the furthest reach and ultimately wield the highest damage potential.
Media monitoring tools can help identify who has the most impact on your brand. Once you've determined this segment, engaging with them in an honest and transparent way may enable you to contain the aftershocks.
2. React quickly
Real-world emergency response teams react as quickly as possible in times of crisis.
In the real world, emergency response teams are trained to react to a disaster in as short a timeframe as possible. You need to operate on a similar principle.
Allowing a crisis to unravel without any input from an organisation creates a negative impression and gives time for influencers to criticise and make all sorts of speculations about the situation. Even if their opinions aren't true, due to their authority in your target market, you may find it difficult to clarify things with the rest of your consumers.
Of course, your response still needs to be carefully thought out, but the key takeaway here is to address the problem head-on as quickly as possible.
Use social media analytics to listen to your consumers' concerns.
Given the virality of negative press in the digital age, organisations need to be particularly aware of how consumers are reacting in the online space.
Social media analytics can help organisations distinguish the key concerns, allowing PR pros to deal directly with the problem. During a PR crisis, Forbes contributor Ekaterina Walter suggested that one of the best things communication professionals can do is simply listen. This means being aware of how your target market feels about the faulty product or service in question, take their concerns seriously and discuss how your organisation is striving to resolve the issue.
4. Be human
Ditch the robot suit. During a PR crisis, consumers want to deal with humans, not technology.
Technology is an excellent tool, but hiding behind the mask of a brand logo can dehumanise an organisation, particularly when consumers are feeling frustrated.
During a crisis, PR News recommended that organisations should highlight the fact that there are empathetic people working behind the scenes. This could involve changing a profile picture to feature a C-suite exec's face, or even releasing a video apologising to the victims involved and outlining the steps the organisation is taking to rectify the problem.