How to protect your reputation in a crisis

How to protect your reputation in a crisis

Recently several high profile brands have found themselves in the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Tim Miller of Genesis PR takes a look at how you can protect your brand and your business in a crisis:

First was Ryanair which announced it was cancelling up to 50 flights a day for the next month due to ‘messing up’ (in their words) its allocation of holiday time for pilots, affecting over half a million customers.

Facebook similarly faced a self-inflicted crisis when it was revealed offensive content could be targeted through its advertising system to sympathetic groups and, to make matters worse, the social network had no idea it was going on.

The taxi app Uber has battled criticism over driver background checks after TFL announced it would not be renewing their licence due to the company not being ‘fit and proper’.

For any organisation in a similar situation, if handled poorly, not only can it cause significant damage to your business in the short term but the longer term impact upon your reputation can be hard to recover from.

So, what should you do if you find yourself facing a media or public backlash?

1.  Anticipate a crisis and have a plan in place. Preparation is key when responding to a crisis and it is essential you have plans that are ready to go. Think about the likely scenarios which could affect your reputation and develop a crisis response strategy for each. These should include draft statements, a list of key media contacts and stakeholders. Make it a point to regularly review and update your plans.

2. Recognise there is a problem. One of the biggest mistakes organisations make when facing a crisis is burying their heads in the sand and keeping quiet, hoping the problem will go away. This creates a vacuum for speculation and false information which can quickly spiral out of control. People want to know that you understand their concerns and are seeking to address them – as quickly as possible.

3. Respond quickly, but accurately. The first 24 hours are crucial and in today’s 24/7 world of social media it doesn’t take long for stories to gain momentum –  even the first few hours can be critical. A quick response is important but make sure you understand the situation first before rushing out a statement which you later need to backtrack on. When it comes to statements, follow the CAR approach: show Concern, explain what Action you are taking and state the Remedy you will be putting in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

4. Be proactive. After your initial statement don’t go quiet. Provide regular updates and an estimated timescale for further responses. Monitor the situation carefully for new developments and, if appropriate, create a dedicated website support page. If a crisis stems from a mistake you have made, an apology should be well received.

5. Monitor social media. Stories often break first on social media, particularly Twitter, long before they hit the papers. Make sure you provide regular updates on Twitter and answer any questions that come through. You should also monitor keywords relating to the crisis to understand the discussions going on and intervene if necessary.