“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 15 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
– Warren Buffet
I just taught a PR class on Digital Marketing at Salem State University, so I wanted to share the lesson. It’s about How to Prepare for a PR Crisis – not if it happens, but when it happens. Most of us sail through life and business, but at some point you’ll be caught off guard and it’s not always your fault. Here’s my version of a crisis management plan. Put it in place now to protect what you’ve worked so hard for. Protect your ‘ass-ets’!
9 Steps to a PR Crisis Plan
- Put together a crisis management team before a crisis. You may not think you’ll ever have a PR crisis, but if you’re in business it’s not only possible, it’s probable. Include your CEO, legal, marketing, HR and yes – your PR person to be part of this influential life/business saving circle.
- We all know you’re busy, but you have to listen. What are your employees, community, customers, enemies and advocates saying? Pick up chatter early enough and you might save yourself time, upset and a major PR crisis. Oh, did I mention lots of money?
- As in any relationship, it’s wise to preview expectations. What works for your personal relationships can work in business too. If you say you’re going to call back a customer in 48 hours, do that. If your policy is to call them within 24 hours and don’t follow through, you’ve lost their trust. Here’s an easy rule. Under promise and over deliver.
- Being transparent isn’t a bad thing. If you’re a CEO you might see this as a sign of weakness, but being transparent shows that you bleed like everyone else and you’re human. People like, know and trust humans as well as brands. If you’re the leader of the pack and you’ve messed up, admit it and don’t fudge the details. Position them accordingly.
- Everyone has made mistakes so how will you respond? My suggestion is to be mindful and thoughtful in your responses to all who have been affected. Someone or a group has been offended or worse, and often there’s more than a BAND-AID® needed. To fix relationships, TLC is needed to build trust again.
- You might be angry but for heaven’s sake keep calm. It’s hard to keep your cool when you’ve been attacked and it takes some coaching to stay even keeled. It’s also difficult to not take everything personally. You’ll never be everyone’s best friend. If you want a best friend, adopt a dog.
- Who has ‘keys’ to your social media accounts? A really frazzled fired employee who has your passwords to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn might post something negative about you, your staff or business practices. Put a system in place and know who has the passwords to your social media accounts and online voice to the world. Hint: This is critical.
- Create social media guidelines that are simple to understand. Sure you can’t control what your employees post on their own social media accounts, but you can ask them to adhere to certain guidelines about your company without infringing on their freedom. Every employee, vendor or volunteer is a brand ambassador for your company. Make sure they share a voice that aligns with your brand, not one that fights it.
- Your mom gave you good advice. You’ll never be perfect or please everybody. As a leader every day you step up to the plate and take risks. Some work out and some don’t. My ask is that you think ahead to what might be problematic and plan for it, without being paranoid. Fear puts you in a paralysis state often enough – and you’ve got things to do, places to go and a brand to build.
Create a community and brand advocates that love you and will go to bat on your behalf when times are tough. Don’t hide from bad news. Take a deep breath and suck it up. It not only builds character, but it also builds a stronger brand.
When I was a Girl Scout, this was our motto – and I think it still is.