Any company could face a public relations crisis, even one as behind-the-scenes as a custom installation firm. Perhaps an employee is caught on camera (probably one they installed in a home automation system) stealing something from a client's home. Or perhaps a quote from an unhappy customer finds its way to a local news outlet — the world can seem a hostile place, at times. As such, it's always best to be prepared. Scott Moody, a respected PR professional serving manufacturers in the consumer electronics industry, explains how.
Pick up any magazine, flip through any newspaper, click on any blog—there is no shortage of companies and people that are neck-deep in a terrible PR crisis. Once that damaging, and in some cases, career-ending, moment arrives, there are a number of things you can do and an even greater number of things you should never do if you want to properly manage the situation.
While managing the crisis properly is critical to your business, preparing for a PR crisis before it happens can sometimes mean the difference between success and total failure.
Before your business finds itself in the middle of a PR nightmare, you should consider the following:
• Make sure the entire staff knows who the contact is if a crisis occurs and that that individual is the only one that has authority to speak to the press on any and all matters related to your business. Typically, that's you, the owner. A misinformed employee or an ill-advised interview can quickly turn a PR crisis into a complete catastrophe. Tell your team members to explain to any inquiring parties that the owner of the business would be the person most suitable for any interview request, have them provide your contact information, and ask them to take the contact information of the press contact for follow up. Crises can happen at any time, make yourself accessible, and if you're planning a much deserved vacation or will otherwise be out of pocket, make it clear who the alternate contact will be.
• Identify necessary vendors for additional support. You may never run into a situation where you need to bring in “the big guns”, but you need to at least know where to turn to in case you do find yourself in an ugly situation. Determine vendors such as legal counsel and a PR agency that you could call on short notice—and hope you never have to use them.
• Try to envision all the possible scenarios your business could face and think of how you would handle them. In truth, there is no way to predict all unwanted PR situations, but there are many scenarios you can potentially see your business in the middle of. What if a product you sold ends up damaging a home or person? What if you have an employee involved in a high-profile crime? What if there is a major accident in your warehouse and people are injured? Think of as many different issues that could surround your business and work through the exercise of handling the situation. Figure out what you would do first, what your public response, if necessary, would be, how would you handle the press? If something outside your plans occurs, you could likely revise a plan on the fly without too much delay in taking action.
These are just a few tips on how to handle a PR crisis before things start getting out of your immediate control. If you and your business take the time to plan how some situations would be handled, you may not caught off guard when something happens. Planning can improving your time to act potentially avoiding damage to your reputatuion. Not only could you save your business, you could turn the crisis situation into a positive for your brand.