The characters are different and the names have been changed, but the PR crisis seems to be the mainstay of mainstream media these days. 2017 had a banner year, including one of my favorites, Dear Cosmopolitan magazine: ‘Cancer is not a diet plan’ – where I chimed in online with my perspective:
While the content and context may vary (politics, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, firings, and frenzies) the advice is always the same: To move the conversation and focus forward during a crisis, the person/organization/brand must do four things:
- Show regret,
- Resolve to fix or address the situation,
- Implement reforms or change of action,
- Offer some form of restitution.
No defensiveness, no claims of ignorance, just clarity, and transparency.
Leadership needs to apologize and show that the team (board, CEO, owner) regrets what has happened. The spokesperson (ideally the offender or leader of the offending group) needs to say she is responsible and show and say that she regrets the actions that were taken and any harm that has come.
It must be made clear that she/he is working to resolve the situation. This could be in the form of laying rumors to rest, quelling gossip, apologizing to supporters and customers, giving factual information, clarifying details or simply working through an unknown issue. Stakeholders need to be able to see that leadership is evaluating their actions and taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Without the promise of change, customers, fans, sponsors, the general public have nothing to cling to. We can all recall examples of athletes or politicians at a news conference, pouring out their hearts. Actions and decisions may be flawed, but people need to feel like they understand why the crisis happened and that the individuals grasp the scope of their actions.
Publicly giving back or compensating in some way is something any team or organization will want to consider. Participating in speaking engagements or publicity events showing good deeds will be in order down the line after the crisis is resolved.
Every company and organization needs to have a crisis plan. It is going to happen, we know it is coming, so have a response action plan in place. Need help drafting a plan? Give me a call!