Crisis? What crisis?

 In Articles, Business

It’s not just FIFA that needs to consider how to repair its public image. Reputations are hard to build and easy to destroy, so crisis and reputation management are PR issues which affect all businesses and organisations, from SMEs to global corporations. In this article from leading marketing and communications agency MM&C, we look at the main points to consider to help your business cope in a crisis.

Start with the basics

In this social media age, what may at first appear to be a minor issue with one customer can soon go viral and turn into a much bigger problem if it’s handled badly. This means that crisis and reputation management has to begin with good customer service, including robust social media policies.

Damage limitation

Like it or not, most scenarios requiring crisis management are a case of limiting the damage caused to the business or organisation. For example, if a major manufacturer has to recall a faulty product, or if a local business is making redundancies, it’s likely that these events will be reported in the media. For PR agencies advising clients about crisis management, one of the hardest tasks is often convincing them that in some circumstances there’s no way to stop negative news about their business or organisation hitting the headlines. In this scenario it’s a waste of valuable time and resources trying to think of ways to stop bad news getting out into the public arena, and far better to accept the fact that there will be media coverage and look at how this coverage can be managed.

Internal comms

Making sure that you pay attention to internal communications in times of crisis is just as important as external comms. Nobody wants to hear negative news about the company work for via the media before they’ve been told by their employers. But there are numerous examples of this happening. Careful messaging to staff before a negative story breaks in the media can have a big impact on staff morale, and on how the story plays out in the media.

Controlling the message

When HMV went into administration in 2013 and job losses were announced, several disgruntled employees were able to access the company’s official Twitter account before managers regained control. Having solid procedures in place in regard to the access and control of social media is a must for all businesses – don’t wait for a crisis to occur before any loopholes in the procedures are exposed.

Assess the impact…

Nike’s ‘Oregon Project’ has been at the centre of media attention ever since a BBC documentary about Alberto Salazar, the Project’s Head Coach, made allegations about the use of performance enhancing drugs (allegations which have been strenuously denied). However, while the story has received significant media attention in the UK and in Europe where athletics is a popular sport, the reaction in the USA has been almost ignored by the media where ‘track and field’ has struggled for attention.

and target the response

Continuing this example, it shows how negative headlines may impact different segments of a company’s customer base, and how a crisis management response needs to be targeted accordingly. For SMEs, a targeted response may mean contacting a small number of customers affected by a particular issue – by direct mail or via a face-to-face meetings, for example – rather than issuing a statement via the media.

These are just some of the many issues to consider, but every crisis and reputation management scenario is different and has its own unique challenges which often require specialist, expert advice. MM&C has an experienced and knowledgeable team to provide this expert advice – contact us through our contact page for a chat.

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