At some point, your company may have to deal with a PR crisis.
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Hopefully it won't make national headlines, but even if it is limited to local news outlets, negative PR can severely impede your ability to do business in your community.
Your best shot at coming out of the crisis unscathed is to bring in a professional PR firm ASAP. Public relations firms are proficient at helping business owners handle negative publicity and perform damage control with the general public. You'll pay for their services, but in an especially dire PR emergency, doing nothing will cost you a lot more.
If a crisis PR firm is out of the question, it's possible to handle your business crisis yourself. Although you'll have to use common sense to tailor your response to the details of the crisis, here's what you need to do to help your business weather the storm.
- Plan for a crisis. If you wait until a crisis hits to consider your strategy, your response efforts will be severely handicapped. Crisis PR battles are usually won or lost long before the crisis occurs through the development of a comprehensive crisis communication plan. Put yours in writing and make sure everyone in your organization knows what to do in the event of a crisis.
- Respond quickly when a crisis occurs. One of the worst things you can do during a crisis is to delay your response. A slow response gives the public the impression that you're making it up as you go along instead of quickly addressing the issue with facts.
- Be direct. As much as possible, try to confront the source of the crisis head on. Evasiveness is generally not a smart move in a PR crisis, but you also don't want to say too much, especially if the crisis could lead to litigation or legal proceedings.
- Pick a point person for crisis management. A consistent message goes a long way toward resolving a PR crisis quickly. Your crisis communication plan should identify a single point person who is responsible for speaking to the press. Everyone else in the organization – from staff to board members – needs to refer the media back to the point person.
- Always comment. A simple "No comment," won't cut it in most PR crises. If anything, a failure to respond to allegations is usually seen as an implicit admission of guilt. You don't have to admit to anything when the bright lights are on you – but make a comment that says you are dealing with the situation.