Businesses have, over the years, become very adept at dealing with a crisis communications issue.
Nine times out of 10 a company stumbles blindly into a situation via a combination of mistakes and, unfortunately, misses opportunities to nip it in the bud.
This issue, accidental or not, is likely to cost companies large amounts of money in terms of repairing the reputational damage and lost sales and the even worse news is that its legacy, thanks to the internet, can last for a lifetime.
There are a significant number of public relations agencies and consultancies out there that claim to specialise in helping a brand navigate through a crisis. Having worked in PR for a Government utility in the early stages of my career, and then the world’s largest bus and rail company after that, and then an insurance company that, at the time, was the 5th largest company in the world, I have dealt with my own large share of corporate crisis situations.
People like me almost had a tried and tested crisis communications mantra and template that could fit nearly every business and industry. 1. Apologise where you can (without admitting legal liability). 2. Turn off your pro-active communications and marketing until it’s over. 3. Announce an independent, third-party investigation into the issue. 4. Announce the results and learning from that investigation and then, if the crisis was still hitting the headlines move to… 5. Announce one of the C-suite was leaving because of it.
That 5-point plan, passed on from generation to generation of crisis communications specialists, has done us fine until the internet.
The internet has made crisis communications into a far longer and more drawn-out recovery process. It is not just enough to deal with the situation that has happened via media statements and a well-prepared Q&A document of every potential negative question that a journalist may ask. Brands now need to deal with the aftermath, which is negative stories floating around…
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