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Five Steps for Managing a PR Crisis

April 3, 2012  
It's unlikely that your brand will ever face a public relations catastrophe on the scale of British Petroleum, Bank of America, or Enron. But there's a chance you'll encounter crisis on a smaller scale. And hindsight allows you to study their errors then decide what you'd do differently. Anita Williams Weinberg, writing at MarketingProfs, says, "The answers ... likely all boil down to a few simple, common-sense steps."

Prioritize an immediate remedy. Before anything else, you must create a solution and communicate its precise details. "Now is the time to really put your customers first—even though your gut instincts might tell you to focus elsewhere," she notes.

Own the error. Get ahead of the story by taking immediate responsibility. It's the right thing to do, and it gives you greater control of the media narrative. An unflinching diagnosis of the problem will also earn customer trust.

Apologize, apologize, apologize. In Weinberg's experience, this doesn't happen enough. "Get out there and give an honest apology—across as many media outlets as possible," she says. And after you apologize, patiently accept the angry feedback you will likely receive.

Make sure it doesn't happen again. A temporary fix may appease customers in the short term, but you need to make it permanent if you plan to keep their business.

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  • by Peter Vogopoulos Mon Apr 16, 2012 via web

    Good article. As a lecturer on Business Ethics at a top business school, I have been asked to consult on brewing crises and while this is a great list, I disagree with what Step 1 should be.

    The first step is always: gather all the facts, from all sides of the story. Thinking about going straight into "remedy mode" might preclude you from looking at the issue as spherically and as objectively as needed. Especially when "news" come to us from all sorts of unreliable sources such as fake news sites and propagated via social media -- companies much be extremely vigilant that they are not being taken for a ride or fed a one-sided story.

    Because our own “mental maps” cloud our objectivity, we need to gather the data, perform a stakeholder analysis of the issue and an ethical analysis of the issue. Only then are we certain we are acting in the best interests of the stakeholders and without bias.

    If you happen to be pressed for a quote from a media agency before you are ready, then I always recommend a statement to the effect of "something has come to our attention and we are investigating the details of the situation”.

    Of course, if you've done something wrong, then you must own it, apologize and make all required restitutions. But it's important to make sure your response is measured with the situation.

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