Corporate reputations are expensive to create and easy to destroy, especially when confronted with today’s veracious 24 hour media machine.
A timidly communicated position in a crisis involving your business can mean mud sticking all over you even if you don’t deserve it. Richard O’Brien Head of PR at DBS Law has a few tips to help BQ readers prepare for the worst and survive a PR crisis.
Being prepared is most the most important thing. Relying on your colleagues don’t to lose their heads as a crisis unfolds is far too risky. So do all of the following before the crisis happens.
Have a crisis plan in place that all the senior people in the organisation understand and sign up to. Redesigning the strategy periodically will help.
Appoint media speaker and have them trained to deal with hostile TV interviews. This won’t necessarily be the boss but whoever looks and sounds better.
Identify the members of your media centre or appoint an agency in advance.
Prepare basic positive information about your organisation and your operations and keep it on file where it can be easily accessed. Rebuttal of untrue allegations only works if you sound credible, making things up on the hoof will be obvious to any journalist.
During the crisis
Shut down all communications with the outside world and direct all media and investigative enquiries to the media centre for comment.
Media centre must be available 24/7.
Be the only source of information about your organisation, a vacuum will be filled by your enemy.
Issue a statement that shows you have nothing to hide, that you are cooperating with the investigation and firmly predict your vindication.
Provide a consistent message in interviews, press statements and on social media.
If the crisis continues then present evidence in your defence, show the remedial action you are taking, and apologise for any genuine mistakes you have made.
Monitor the media and rebut any inaccuracies. If the crisis involves allegations against high profile individuals you should consider instructing a specialist solicitors like Carter Ruck to manage a particularly hostile media.
When you are vindicated and the storm has passed welcome this as a badge of honour and praise your staff for their hard work and dedication. Most importantly thank your customers for their loyalty and understanding throughout the difficult period. Then get back on track with your positive media strategy.