While the primary objective of PR is to boost your company’s reputation, that is not its sole purpose. As well as creating buzz around your brand, PR is also crucial for damage control, or crisis communication. No company wishes to find itself under fire, but there is no such thing as immunity to a PR crisis. How brands react to a negative situation is equally as crucial as how success is celebrated.
Brands can limit the repercussions of a crisis with effective crisis communication.
When dealing with a full-fledged crisis, it might be useful to consider the average waiting time of customers. Research shows that consumers usually expect a response to their queries in an hour, under normal circumstances. This forms an estimate of how patient the community is likely to be in the event of an actual crisis. Waiting times are expected to be slashed down considering the pressing nature of a PR crisis.
“No Comments” is the Worst Response
While it might seem easier to offer no comments during crises, doing so can negatively sway public opinion. For consumers, withheld information is interpreted as an admission of guilt. To give you control over the narrative surrounding the situation, a holding statement must be released immediately. Responsiveness is everything in a crisis, especially in the fast-paced world of social media.
One of the first lines of defense in PR damage control is achieved by releasing a holding statement. These missives afford brands extra time as they troubleshoot and resolve the ongoing issue.
A holding statement is an organization’s initial response to a crisis or incident. It includes the basic facts of the situation and lets people know that you’re reacting swiftly. You may not have all the details yet, but a holding statement buys you time to prepare. Additionally, it helps to prevent the spread of hearsay and speculations.
Holding statements should not be taken as a solution to a crisis. Instead, it serves as an outlet for brands to publicly acknowledge an issue and to assure the public that an investigation is in progress.
Know When to Act
New brands might commit the error of misidentifying a crisis. Negative customer reviews are common and normal. Bad feedback requires attention and potentially draw bad publicity, but this does not constitute a crisis. In fact, overreacting in such situations might actually damage brand reputation than a non-response.
When assessing a situation, business owners should answer the following questions:
- Will our brand reputation be tarnished in the eyes of customers, prospects, stakeholders, or our industry?
- Will this event severely impact your workflow?
- Is the board of directors going to panic?
- Will this event impact your bottom line?
Answering yes to one or two of these questions might not constitute a crisis. However, if the answer to all of these is yes, the brand might face a looming crisis. If the situation turns out to be a crisis, react to the event in a calm and collected manner.
Issue a product recall, pull out an unpopular tweet, brands need to stay proactive to prevent consumers from sounding out the problem and going viral. The ability to diagnose and contain a situation is imperative in social media management.
Be Sensitive and Honest
A brand’s official statement needs to provide the public with key facts about the crisis.
Exact details might be unavailable at the moment, but this can be followed up later. This might also be a good opportunity for brands to provide previous examples of their competence, i.e, issuing a mass refund. Compassion is also critical, so messages must be empathetic, especially to those affected by the crisis.
It’s a good idea to research previous instances of companies reacting to a crisis. What was their response to a potential PR disaster?
One classic example came from Disney in 2016, following a horrific accident at one of their resorts. After an alligator killed a toddler in Orlando, CEO Bob Iger made the following statement:
“As a parent and a grandparent, my heart goes out to the Graves family during this time of devastating loss. My thoughts and prayers are with them, and I know everyone at Disney joins me in offering our deepest sympathies.”
Iger used the statement to demonstrate empathy while managing to avoid legally implicating Disney.
Seek Specialized Support
Brands can reduce or avoid damage to their reputation by seeking crisis communication experts during times of uncertainty.
Nifty Method is a full-service agency that provides specialized marketing, consulting, training, strategic content, and more, to help your business thrive through any period of uncertainty.