Sometimes things go wrong. I am currently working with an organisation that is about to deliver some bad news. But I'm definitely a glass-half-full person. And I firmly believe that every cloud has a silver lining and out of every crisis comes opportunity.
Here are my top tips for dealing with a crisis through PR.
1. Preparation is key, particularly when many disasters can unfold rapidly, and usually at quite inconvenient times. Start out by writing a list of worst-case scenarios that could affect your business. Consult widely, as the more ideas you have, the better prepared you will be. It can be helpful to
2. Once you've got your 'risk register', don't head straight for the brandy, but go through it and identify the key stakeholders who would be impacted and what their concerns would be. For example, you may imagine that you have a shop that might be gutted by fire. Your key stakeholders would include your staff, customers, insurers and the media: all with differing information needs.
3. Next, identify how you would resolve each situation and what information you would need to provide each stakeholder group and through which channels. Don't forget your own social media channels as well as the traditional PR routes.
4. It can be helpful to outline a crisis process - so you know who is responsible for doing what and when in the event of a crisis.
5. When informing your different groups, you should:
a) Express regret at what has happened and sympathy with those affected. Even if you can't accept liability due to legal sensitivities, you can still empathise at the situation.
b) Outline concrete resolutions to the issue. Going back to the shop example, you could tell staff and customers that perhaps you have arranged to trade from alternative premises or reassure customers that your online shop is still operational.
c) Be proactive and respond quickly. If no information is forthcoming, the gap will be filled with rumours that can be difficult to dispel. It also shows you are taking charge of the situation and engenders trust in what might be difficult circumstances.
d) keep the lines of communication open. Invite feedback and comments. If those affected can't let you know how they feel, you can bet your bottom dollar they are letting someone else (a possible customer) know instead. In some cases, it may be worth opening a special hotline. And make sure you provide regular updates about how you are dealing with the situation. If you have taken action due to particular concerns raised through feedback, let everyone know.
If you follow these steps, even if disaster does strike, you can minimise the potential damage. And, looking at that silver lining, even generate increased respect and loyalty among your current customers, and maybe even increase your customer base.