This is a guest post by Andreea Paraschiv, a passionate tech marketer who worked with various multinational and local IT organizations, from start-ups to corporations like Intel, Microsoft, Kingston, VmWare, Maguay, CyberGhost and more.
The first time I faced a PR crisis I tried to reach for external support. I first called a PR specialist, in order to try to find some tips from a real expert. She would have gladly advised me what I should do for “just” 300 euro/hour!
So my first advice would be to be careful who you reach to in this process. There are many experts (or even worse, the so called “experts”) that will try to rip you off big time. And the reasons are obvious: you are in desperate need of a solution and money might be the last thing you think about.
PR crisis management is something that needs quick reaction, but might take months (even years) to cure the company’s image. So try to be patient and don’t look for overnight solutions.
I have managed several PR crises in my career, every time applying successfully the same receipt.
Today, I’ll try share with you my knowledge… for free
Step 1: Gather data
Try to find out who wrote what, what is true and what is not. If it’s a legal aspect, try to get in contact with the company’s lawyer. If not, get in touch quickly with employees that are directly (or indirectly, if the first category is not available) connected with the story.
If you have a marketing department, use all available resources, as time and first official reaction are highly important.
At this stage it is important to find and start using (if you aren’t using one already) an online monitoring tool. This way, you will know when somebody says your name and you can change it from a monologue into a dialogue.
Step 2: Prepare your action plan
There are many roads to take, depending on your problem.
If there is only one publication (or just a few) that have published false information you have the right to ask them for a correction – there are laws which govern this!
If the message has already spread in local press, plan a press conference in the next 12 hours (if not possible, try at least to make it in less than 24 hours).
If the message has spread globally, invite journalists who wrote about and other popular journalists, but also your clients (if they are also influenced by the story) to an online session of Q&A.
Step 3: Craft your message
Your message is the most important at this point. You can show empathy towards some people or a situation, you can sound aggressively towards some published information. Set one tone of voice and follow it through.
Don’t hide out information and try to be as transparent and clear as possible. Use any resources you have to make your point stand. For example, for my first press release, a great value was added by the company’s lawyers, which rephrased 70% of my article so that it would sound more neutral and defend the company better.
Remember that you will get a lot of attention during these days and it is up to you if you manage to turn the situation from negative to positive!
Step 4: Send out the official response and invite to connect
Show your stakeholders that you are open to discuss more and present the company’s vision upon the subject of this crisis. Publish an official response and invite to a Q&A session (as mentioned before, a press conference really helps).
For any press conference I usually do myself:
• Speakers presentations (at least 2 presenters from the company – with people from management roles, not PR);
• Press kit: press release (printed version and .doc on a USB stick, pen, branded clean sheets of paper.
Don’t forget to have coffee and snacks at your event’s location – they always help to relax more the atmosphere. Don’t do giveaways, or those could be considered as bribes.
Be open to communication and show your audience that you are available to talk.
Step 5: Find third party ambassadors
Your story is known by others, too. Try to find the right people that can attest your credibility for this matter. Outside ambassadors can bring to the table additional credibility to your story.
Step 6: Cure wounds in time
Be consistent with your message. As said at the beginning of this article, it’s never easy and you won’t reach success overnight.
I’d advice you to become a little hacker of press: every time the subject is brought into attention again, try to send out a press release, showing positive events in the company’s journey (new products launched, new sponsorship, local market trends). Keep an one-to-one approach with press representatives and remember, trust is (re)gained in time!
What are your main take-outs from your experience with PR crisis? Tweet your tips using the #PRcrisisTips hashtag. Sharing is caring!
If you want to publish a PR related guest post on Mustr’s blog, ping @AdelinaPeltea