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Saturday, 1 August 2009

Crisis PR - Protecting the reputation of your business

Q: My business is facing difficulties and I’m worried that this will attract negative press coverage. How can I protect our reputation?

A: Every organisation is vulnerable to a crisis and whether you are facing an office closure, a product recall or an accident on site, if the public perceives you as compassionate, competent and confident, they are far more likely to believe and support what you say.

The sensational stories we all read about in the tabloids are examples of what happens when communications go wrong. While no one can predict a crisis, with a little foresight and preparation you can protect your reputation and turn a potential PR crisis into a media opportunity that wins you customer and public support.

Here are some of my tips on preparing for a crisis and how to get the best out of a bad situation:

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – If you can step back and make an honest assessment of any potential issues in your organisation, you’ll be better prepared when a crisis hits. A little assistance from a professional communications firm can establish a basic framework so you can respond effectively when something does go wrong.

Show you care – Show sympathy and concern. Put yourself in the shoes of the people you’ve affected and shape your messages to address their concerns first.

Have a PR strategy – Decide what you need to tell people and who you need to tell before you speak to the media. And, select the right spokesperson for the job. If your CEO isn’t media savvy, can’t communicate well, or doesn’t really know the issues, choose someone who does.

Get your facts straight and tell the truth – The easiest way to make a fool of yourself is tell your side of the story without knowing the facts. Double-check your information with more than one source. And remember, journalists need information quickly. If they don’t get it from you, they’ll get it from someone else!

Manage the message – Make sure your own employees, suppliers and clients are never surprised by information going out to the public. And make sure they know not to speak to the media, but who to refer media enquiries to.

Never say ‘no comment’ – ‘No comment’ is always a comment so don’t ever say it – people will think you are hiding something!