01 May 2012
No matter how many checks are made, how many times you look over things and how careful you are, mistakes happen. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, problems occur.
Since the arrival of social media, the face of crisis PR has changed dramatically. The strategy hasn’t changed but the implementation has.
Back in 1978 when 1.5 million Ford Pintos were recalled due to an unfortunate design flaw that, in some cases, could cause it to catch fire in rear-end collisions, Ford didn’t have to worry about people inciting panic on Twitter, or the creation of a ‘Ban Ford Pintos’ Facebook page.
While the Internet is often seen as making crisis PR management even more of a challenge, it should also be seen as a valuable opportunity to engage with customers.
Take Stella Artois, for example. When three batches of its Cidre were found to be ‘at risk of bursting unexpectedly’ it issued urgent recall guidance.
This could have been a PR disaster for Stella but, rather than letting the media run away with the story, they set the agenda. They created a section on their Facebook page telling consumers how to check if their bottles were from one of the three affected batches and what to do if they were. They sent the same guidance to the media, ensuring that they were given the facts before the rumour-mill started.
The Guardian ran the story with the headline ‘An explosive brew (hard hat not included)’ with the story containing details of numerous other product recalls as well as the Cidre recall, saying that ‘despite consumer scares, most brands have quickly bounced back’.
How you deal with a crisis could have a massive impact on your business. While you can’t control what the media prints, swift communication is essential if businesses want to drive the media agenda by feeding the media with carefully worded, timely information.
The speed at which Stella Artois reacted and the messages it put out suggests it has an effective crisis communications strategy in place. Can you say the same for your business? If disaster struck would you know who your company spokesperson is? Or how to call a press conference? Or how to alert the public without causing panic?
It’s no good waiting until a crisis hits to put a crisis communications plan in place. You may not be able to prevent a problem from occurring but you can be prepared. Having a PR crisis management plan in place is crucial in the face of a pending PR nightmare. If you have an established ‘crisis team’ you can ensure that all members of the team have undertaken the relevant media training and that each member knows what their role is in the face of a crisis. Having statements prepared for the press ensures you can put the facts across in a clear and concise manner.
Investing in a PR crisis management plan is rather like taking out car insurance – you hope you will never need to use it but in the event of a crash it could save you a fortune.
If you would like advice on putting together a crisis PR plan, Metrix Marketing Communications can talk you through the entire process. At Metrix we devise PR crisis management plans that set out procedures for handling public relations issues that may arise under a range of circumstances. Whether an employee has had a fatal accident in one of your factories or there has been an allegation of fraud, reacting in accordance with a pre-defined PR plan could make a huge difference.
As well as working with you to prepare PR crisis management plans we also provide media training, giving you the knowledge and confidence you need to handle the media in a crisis. Given today’s 24-hour news cycle and the growing tendency to turn to social media outlets to air grievances, the media may quickly latch onto a story that you would rather it didn’t know about. We can help you anticipate the media’s reaction and respond with confidence, helping to keep your business’ reputation intact.
If you would like any information or advice on putting together a crisis PR plan for your company, please get in touch.