Don't take a PR beating
Never let a serious crisis go to waste... it's an opportunity to do things you thought you couldn't do before. - Rahm Emanuel
A crisis can strike your company in many forms, at any time; usually the very second you turn your back. It might be something fairly minor; a bad review on your web pages or people flaming you on Facebook. Worse, it might be an issue much more serious where reporters from CBC Edmonton are thrusting microphones in your face as you leave for work, (a sure sign of a very bad day ahead.) Most corporate crises aren’t TV News extreme, of course, but when someone writes a bad review for poor customer service, it can seem like a crisis in its earliest development stage.. Bear in mind, however, that the Chinese character for “crisis” is a combination of two words; "danger" and "opportunity".
How you deal with issues early on is very important. It is imperative you tackle the situation prompty as your company reputation is at stake. The longer you drag your feet to face the catastrophe, the longer the crisis will stick in people's minds.
Here are some important crisis communication tips:
- Don’t delay. Meet the problem head-on. How you deal with issues in their early stages is mission critical for designing a strategy for softening the blow to your company’s image. Dragging your PR feet will only cause negative press to escalate. Being pro-active, though, will buy you respect in the public sphere. Every company makes mistakes. It’s how they’re dealt with which separates the greats from the also-rans.
- Don’t dodge. In the case of a rotten review on your website, do not delete the negative opinion from your pages. Design your review/feedback section to allow, not just complaints, but your response to the concerns to appear on the website This is actually an opportunity for you to demonstrate the responsiveness that your customer service team has developed. Instead of bad news, view negative comments on your site as an advertising opportunity. People pay a lot of attention to bad press, just as people can’t avert their eyes from a car wreck. Generally, though, if you deal with the issue compassionately, the public may actually side with you and view the complainant as a bully or whiner, depending on the issue.
- Don't delegate. Whether you're running a small business or an international corporation, ensure someone with real authority deals with complaints. People want to believe they’re being heard and won’t feel that if they can’t get past the receptionist. Equally important is that the message must be unified and represent the company. Instruct all other employees to direct all inquiries to one person. No one else should answer questions.
- Don't dither. Always appear prepared and in control of the situation. Act confident. Don’t fumble around or stammer. Be sure of your facts and maintain focus. The public must feel the situation is being handled competently. It does not matter how well you and your team can handle the crisis, it matters how well you communicate that you have a plan.
- Don't digress. Make sure your messages are focused by staying on topic. Don’t try to divert attention.
- Don't dissemble. Make sure you understand the situation and the consequences. Always be honest. Concede that you understand how people will be affected. Don’t downplay the damage. Apologize if you need to. Courts in Canada have now established an apology is not an admission of guilt. Being open and accountable in a crisis will create a positive image that can remain with you and the company for a long time.
- Don't disregard. Ask the customer how they would like the problem resolved. Quite often they just want to be heard. The cost of your public apology may be enough. Or they may ask for a reasonable compensation. People do not want to look greedy or unreasonable. Asking what you can do to make amends is the fastest way to solve a problem.
- Don't dilly-dally. Prove that you are committed to solving the problem and mitigating the damage. Take action so people know you are committed to following through on your promises.
- Don't denounce. Remember the 3 Cs. Don’t Criticize, Condemn or Complain. These will never end well. The 3 Cs should be applied to everyday communication.
- Don’t deride. ever joke about the situation or belittle anyone, especially on social media. This has damaged bigger players than you. Be genuinely caring towards the victims.
- Don’t deplore. Never compare your situation to the victims. It is not about you. Don’t play “poor me”.
- Don't dismiss. Make an offer that shows that you are capable of solving the problem. This is a chance to build your brand, not to promote any specific product. The price to rectify the situation is simply one of the costs of effective, crisis-resistant marketing.
Receiving negative publicity or being embroiled in a serious public relations flap is a concern of most business owners. When you're calling the shots in a crisis, you have a chance to be a hero or a goat. By embracing these suggestions and avoiding all the 'don'ts', you have a much greater chance of surviving the situation intact, and maybe even gaining strength through adversity.