Whether you are public or plan on going public, perception management and crisis management rule. It happens to the best of companies: business is booming one day, and the next an employee can become embroiled in a scandal or one of the company's products can cause harm to a consumer or the environment, sparking a public relations nightmare.
However, you can reduce the negative impact by following these 15 steps:
1. Be Prepared for a PR Crisis. Anticipate the questions you would most fear and create answers for them ahead of time.
2. Prevent a PR Crisis. Preferable to responding to a PR crisis is averting one in the first place. Examine your company's vulnerabilities from all angles and take measures to eliminate or alleviate them.
3. Respond Fast. You have 48 hours to turn around a PR crisis.
4. Adopt a Journalist's Attitude. The best way to avoid being skewered in the media is act like you're a member of the media. Be skeptical and look for facts.
5. Leave No Room for Doubt. Be intentional in what you do and don't say. Don't leave room for interpretation.
6. Keep in Touch With Staff. Speak to your employees before talking to the press or public. Let them know how to handle any questions they are asked.
7. Contact the Affected. Call or personally visit anyone negatively affected by the actions of your company.
8. Assign Responsibilities. During a crisis, assign each employee, department or team a task geared toward solving the underlying problem and/or improving public perception.
9. Look for Outside Assistance. Seek an outsider's perspective for insights without bias. Find an experienced, trustworthy advisor. Consider hiring a PR professional.
10. View the Crisis as an Opportunity. The saying, "there's no such thing as bad publicity" contains an element of truth. Now that your company is in the public eye, you have a chance to focus on your products and/or services. Don't squander the opportunity.
11. Avoid "No Comment." Answering questions with "no comment" annoys the press and causes you to sound defensive and suspect to the public. It is better to say, "I don't have an answer for you at this time, but will find out and get back to you as soon as possible," or "we're still looking into that."
12. Know Your Company's Past. Look into your company's record to discover other crises it has faced, as well as outcomes. This will prepare you for communicating with the media as well as help any attorneys or PR professionals with whom you are working.
13. Reassure. Tell the public how the company will ensure that whatever caused the crisis won't happen again and how the company intends to make amends. This paves the way for forgiveness from the public.
14. Media Training. Before a crisis occurs, make sure you and your staff undergo media training.
15. Create a Crisis Response Plan. Create a plan, appoint employees to a Crisis Response Team, and meet regularly to update the plan as needed.
James Scott is the CEO of Princeton Corporate Solutions, a corporate globalization and political strategies firm, PCS offers a unique blend of think tank, corporate and governmental communication strategies to expedite the facilitation of long lasting relationship building in these necessary sectors. http://princetoncorporatesolutions.com James Scott is a member of Chatham House, Aspen Institute and Manhattan Institute
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