“It was the best of times and it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” Charles Dickens could not have been more accurate in The Tale of Two Cities back in 1859. Indeed he could have been writing about the present financial crisis that has grabbed the world’s attention at every level or, even more specifically, he could have even been writing about the real estate sector here in UAE and the wider region…
What do you do when a PR crisis hits you smack in the face? Damage control, obviously. Sawsan Ghanem, Managing Director, Active PR & Marketing Communications Consultancy, tells us how to combat bad PR.
Good news travels fast, but bad news travels faster. And now that it has a free ticket to the Web, it’s practically got wings! As more and more people instinctively go to the Web to research anything and everything – from reading about an item they want to buy, to a property they want to invest in, or a company they plan to partner with – you need to be even more vigilant about your reputation.
Access to the Web has never been easier and will get more so. This is great on many fronts, but there are two sides to the coin. News and information – good or bad, speculative or factual – is there for all to see, read and analyse. So if there is the slightest doubt or negative publicity about you, it will be up online faster than anywhere else, and you may well end up the talk of the town – but for all the wrong reasons.
In our experience over the years, we have come across many an occasion where we’ve had to advise a number of companies on how best to handle a leak or negative news that is in the public domain. The worst path to follow is to bury your head in the sand and expect ‘the news’ to simply disappear.
So here are some tips to help you out, should your company ever be on the receiving end of bad publicity, online or offline:
Be prepared with a response – Think of all the possible questions you may get asked by the media or any other parties, and put together a response to each question. In addition to this invaluable reference document, prepare a few key messages or points you would want to make in any interview or conversation related to the concerned ‘bad’ news. This way – by sticking to the agreed and thought through messaging, which ultimately gets the facts and positive points across – you will be prepared and more confident to handle any questions that come your way. The key here is to stay calm and to the point. Your customers, employees, shareholders and media all appreciate objective facts and statements.
Engage with the media – If you receive calls from the media while you are putting the facts together, there is no harm in taking the names and phone numbers of those reporters and asking them what their deadline is. Assure the reporter that you will return his or her call before their deadline with the necessary responses and facts.
Stand strong and own up to mistakes made – If an honest mistake was made, then there is no harm in admitting it. Share the facts, and emphasise what measures you are taking to remedy this and avoid similar mistakes from recurring in the future.
Start the good PR machine – Circulate your side of the story, with facts. Follow this up with more positive developments. Keep at it! In doing so, you will gradually knock the bad news off the front pages.
Monitor the Web – Effectively monitor the Web, newswires, blogs, and personal opinions posted on various forums. You need to keep your finger on the pulse for any malicious or negative rumours that may be doing the rounds, and nip them in the bud there and then, before they build momentum.
Use the Web to your advantage – Start compiling and uploading positive content about the company on the Web, so it’s out there fast. Make use of the company Website, and send it to newswires and the media. Start a forum for people to discuss and enquire about any news or action related to the company. Blogs can also work for you. Use the various online tools to your advantage and leverage your PR machine to do what it knows best – spread ‘good’ news about the company, based on facts. Be proactive in a planned way. In time, if you play your cards right, the positive news will make the ‘bad news’ cloud drift away.
Proactively answer questions – These could be about the company, its future plans, business objectives, performance and so on. All parties that are linked to the company in one form or the other, including customers, partners, investors, shareholders, employees, will need reassurances and clarity with timely and relevant information and facts.
Listen to what is being said carefully – Always ask the media or the people who are posing questions what their complaint or issue is; listen carefully and understand where they are coming from. Basically make sure you get all the facts, take notes, and then revert back with a calm, short and thought-through response. People generally don’t like being told that they are wrong or how to go about their jobs better. They are more likely to warm up to those who listen to them carefully and give them the time of day.
Have a crisis plan in place – This is often overlooked until too late in the day. Companies generally need to have a crisis plan in place, so they will not get caught off guard. A worst-case-scenario drill sets the guidelines for the effective management of any crisis that may need a call to action at short notice. Your plan should cover various scenarios, action points, key messages, company spokespeople and important reference information. In times like this, it would be highly recommended for the concerned company to hire a professional PR Agency – should they not have one – for guidance and support.
(via SMB Advisor)