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Okay, I have a PR crisis, what not to do?
When you start a business, mind this - public relations crises are inevitable. Smaller or bigger, they're going to happen. Whether it's a product malfunction, a social media storm, or an unforeseen event affecting your brand, how a company responds can make or break its reputation. It's just that easy. Let's talk about the pitfalls to avoid - what are the critical mistakes businesses often make during PR crises and how to NOT make them?
Avoid silence, please! Radio silence is one of the biggest mistakes. Silence can and probably will be perceived as guilt, indifference, or both. Even if you're still gathering information, it's crucial to acknowledge the issue promptly. Say something, anything calm. Give people regular updates on how the situation is unfolding. Tailor them strategically, of course, but please, for the love of God, don't stay silent. If your company is at fault, apologize immediately - a sincere apology will demonstrate accountability and might mitigate negative sentiment. Delaying an apology can only add to the damage.
Address concerns, avoid making promises you can't keep, this can lead to further loss of trust down the road. Don't be defensive - while we all understand that during a PR crisis, emotions run high, doing so can alienate stakeholders and the public. Always try to approach communication with empathy and understanding. Also - shifting blame, especially without evidence, can come off as petty and irresponsible. As mentioned before, focus on solutions and taking responsibility where it's due. Apologize, if it's your fault. And don't ignore feedback, especially negative feedback from loyal customers. I know it can be so painful (a stab in the back, right?), but it's invaluable to learn and grow.
While the crisis unfolds, don't overlook any communication channels - especially the social media. Today's news breaks usually happen on Twitter or Facebook. Be there, listen and respond accordingly, don't let the conversation happen without you. And be consistent with your communication - ensure that all the messages are the same across all the channels - website, email, social media, press releases. Mixed messages can create confusion and mistrust. And, if we're on the topic of consistency - don't forget the most important ambassadors of your brand - the employees! Imagine - if your brand spreads one message in its social media channels, but employees keep saying the opposite - who do you think people will believe? Exactly, the employees, because they supposedly have the “inside story”. Neglecting to communicate with them can lead to misinformation and further damage to your brand's reputation.