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When dealing with a PR crisis, it's essential to have a crisis communications plan, monitor social media and have a crisis management team.

Ten Tips for Managing a PR Crisis

As a business owner, it’s one of your worst fears: Your product injures someone and the media grabs hold of the story. The next thing you know, you’re getting vilified on social media. In fact, the day after United Airlines forcibly removed a passenger due to overbooking, the company was hammered on social media and lost 4% of its market value.

When a PR calamity hits, take a deep breath and implement your crisis communications plan. You do have one, don’t you? Well you should, and here are some of the things you should consider doing during a public relations thunderstorm:

  1. Gather the facts. This includes the who, what, where, when, why, how and how much.
  2. Assemble a crisis management team. This may include the CEO and staff from HR, marketing, operations and/or other areas, depending on the situation. 
  3. Appoint a spokesperson. This will be the public face of the crisis, someone who is trained and has the necessary skill sets to speak to the media, at press conferences and to affected parties. It may or may not be the CEO.  Regardless, every CEO should have at least some media training.
  4. Monitor social media. This is often where news breaks first, the fastest and to the most people. You need to know which way the online winds are blowing.
  5. Thoughtfully address the issue in a timely manner (within 24 hours). Be empathetic, accountable and apologetic if called for. Don’t rush to the microphones, be argumentative or assign blame. Get the statement out via all of your online and off-line communication platforms. Have an FAQ page. 
  6. Transparency is important. Stick to the facts; you never want to speculate. Conversely, never say “no comment.” If you truly don’t have an answer, then say so and let people know you’re in the process of finding out. Also, don’t provide information overload, just the information people should reasonably know. And always remember, cover-ups generally don’t end well.
  7. Provide a solution that remedies the situation.
  8. Keep internal stakeholders and employees updated.
  9. Monitor and provide updates as needed, but don’t unnecessarily drag out the situation.
  10. Debrief the crisis team on what went well and what could have been done better.

You won’t be able to please everyone, but consumers tend to be forgiving, provided you are sincere in your attempt to remedy the situation.

Carey Gertler is a Partner in the Private Business Services Group.

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