7 PR Secrets to Surviving Crisis
What do Ashley Madison and Amazon have in common? They’ve both responded to recent crises in entirely different ways.
When you don’t respond properly to a crisis — or at all — you run the very real risk of everybody hating you, losing trust in you and undermining your reputation, potentially forever. Just ask SeaWorld, which saw profits drop 84 percent after the “Blackfish” documentary was released; or BP, whose valuation never recovered after Deepwater Horizon dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
More recently, think of the trust lost by Ashley Madison when hackers posted its “private” users in public view, or the high-performing stock at Amazon even after The New York Times documented a less than stellar work culture.
Here are seven things you should think of now to be ready in case it happens to you.
1. Draft a Crisis Plan
Not every crisis can be predicted, but you should have a pretty decent idea of the most likely things that can go wrong. A crisis plan doesn’t have to include exact steps to deal with every possible scenario, but it should lay out major risks, affected stakeholders and how to reach each of them with necessary information. Assemble a crisis communications team with experts from relevant subject areas and create a communications structure to disseminate information to team members, including assignment of spokespeople and social spokespersons.
2. Practice Makes Perfect
Stage your own war games where possible scenarios are tested and evaluate how the response plan worked. Make necessary adjustments to messages and participants, and iterate until the management strategy is successful. When a real crisis occurs, you will have a successful template to draw from, modifying where necessary to accommodate the exact situation.
3. Gather Facts More Than Feelings
In a crisis situation, you should have more in common with journalists than marketing teams. Best responses are driven primarily by the facts, and you must gather accurate information as quickly as possible, even though feelings often dominate the narrative. Show your mastery of the message by having more facts than anyone else, and sharing them first.