A crisis hits—now what? Most public relations firms have a go-to procedure in place to properly and immediately begin crisis management, or what I like to call damage control. And while no two crises are ever the same, most management measures are adaptable to any situation. Every crisis—product or personnel—requires immediate action and a transparent response. While these are obvious approaches, there are definitely some less obvious, yet equally important, crisis management elements that are often overlooked. Here are four things companies and PR firms should remember the next time a crisis stomps down its ugly foot.
Remember the Long-Term Effects
When something goes wrong, the immediate reaction is to fix the problem right away. This often means short-term goals are set without looking at the bigger picture. PR agencies immediately put out statements, releases and messaging looking to spin the crisis in their client’s favor. While this is the appropriate response, it’s crucial to ensure that these messages are aligned for long-term gain, and that the approach is strategic for maintaining positive relationships. How a PR firm or company interacts with the media during a time of crisis will have ripple effects moving forward. This can be positive or negative depending on the style of communication. How crisis statements address key messages can also have long-term effects on the reputation of a company. These elements need to be weighed, planned and orchestrated carefully while thinking about the company in the long term.
Moving forward, there is actually an ability to use the crisis as an anchor for future messaging. Companies can spin the crisis to create content with a “lessons learned” mentality, accepting the negative situation and creating a positive message out of it.
Don’t Just Manage a Crisis, Utilize it
Something unfortunate happened, but instead of just managing the situation, companies should learn from it by utilizing what they learned in a positive way. With every crisis there are typically amazing stories of how companies and teams come together in the face of adversity. If there was a problem or malfunction found with a product, it can often yield amazing insight. If there was a personnel problem, it can demonstrate teamwork and dedication to preserving a brand or company.
This isn’t about spinning a crisis to minimize it, reducing negative sentiments, or covering something up; it’s about uncovering the amazing stories that reveal themselves in times of difficulty. It’s about showing the positive that has come from the negative, and using that to demonstrate a company’s commitment to bettering themselves.
Keep it in the Family
When something goes awry, it’s natural to want to bring in the “experts.” But hiring an external crisis communications firm can be more detrimental than beneficial. Bringing in outsiders to clean up a situation requires that they deeply understand your brand or position. But the truth is, there is no time for learning and understanding. Crises need an immediate response, and if someone don’t fully comprehend your brand, it’s not going to work. That’s why companies should make sure their PR team or agency has crisis training, as well as a strategy and methodology in place. They already understand the brand and its message, which is essential in times of tribulation.
Be Better than your Competition
It’s not just about managing a crisis; it’s about managing a crisis better than your competitors. Companies often struggle to find the best approach for managing difficult situations, yet they also forget that these things happen to everyone—including competitors. The fact is, companies small and large will have a crisis at some point; that doesn’t mean they should stop managing key marketing initiatives even if one hits.