Opinion

How to use PR before, during and after crisis

By Emmanuel Loro William

Crisis situations for any company should be avoided at all costs; however, because of how quickly information spreads across the internet a company can find itself scrambling to protect its positive brand image in a short period of time when faced with a crisis. 

As a company with PR team should always have a crisis management plan and crisis management team in place to handle pre-crisis, crisis, and post-crisis situations. A management team is necessary in assigning a social media manager to deliver messages, maintain consistency, creating pre-draft messages and templates to use in saving time. These messages help ensure that a crisis team can respond to a crisis almost immediately, plugging in additional information into the template depending on the crisis this work as pre crisis plan for future use.

 

Communicate impacts of the situation as soon as possible. It is key to provide simple, straightforward communication to your customers and clients as soon as a crisis occurs. Target’s communication efforts were a bit delayed, which jeopardized trust among their brand-loyal customer base. The delay in Target’s response gave the media an opportunity to define the story themselves, without any public announcement from Target first. It is imperative to present an announcement or release a statement as soon as possible so the story can be told from the company’s point of view this required a competent nd right spokesperson who knows the public perceptions and always put them into consideration.

Deliver a sincere apology. Customer satisfaction should be the number one priority for a business. After a crisis, you want clients to feel comforted by lessening their concerns. A heart-felt, sincere apology in the form of a public announcement, in addition to supporting communication efforts, will humanize the company, re-instilling faith in the brand.Mainta in complete honesty. Do not try to sugarcoat the true, complete factors of a situation.

Sugarcoating the situation increases the amount of time the story is in the news because more and more stories revealing bits and pieces of the truth may continue to surface.

 Employ strong internal communication. Employees are the best brand ambassadors for your company. Maintaining strong internal communications will boost morale and provide employees with a sense of empowerment. Their confidence in the company and knowledge of its efforts to alleviate a negative situation can be transferred to the customers, providing reassurance.

Don’t act without a PR team relying on outside consultants and rookies for advice on how to deal with crisis does not help because an outsider did not understand the actual situation is time consuming compared to in-house PR. E.g. The consultant company which was hired to help BP, or British Petroleum, which is a multinational oil and gas company that failed to effectively handle a crisis situation during the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010was of no use to the CEO  Mr. Hayward instead continue aiding in making  daily blunders despite repeated insensitive comments and his lack of understanding of the public he was addressing. BP had no public relations strategy and failed to communicate three key messages including accountability, concern and a plan.

 Display how you’re fixing the problem. In order for customers or clients to continue business with your organization, they will want assurance that similar problems will not arise in the future. Write a press release highlighting the steps you’re taking to fix the problem. Avoid offering discounts or sales because that will appear as a selfish business boost. You want to focus on your customers’ best interest at this time.

Share what you’re learning about the crisis with others in the industry. Sharing the key takeaways that your company learned after the crisis provides an opportunity to engage with the community. Target can serve as a perfect example of a company that takes preventative measures after a crisis by installing security systems and using appropriate tactics to avoid a hack in the future. This showcases the responsibility of the company and positions themselves as an example that other retail brands can learn from.

Be consistent. Just like using paid ads or social media, an effective public relations strategy requires consistency. Make sure that you get your message out in a timely fashion and on a regular basis. Issue press releases when you launch new products or want to highlight your employee’s community efforts. Hold press conferences whenever there’s a major change in your company.

Develop a strong media network. Don’t focus all efforts on one publication or on a single type of media. Include a good mix of local news outlet and regional publications. Work with independent journalists and alternative media outlets whose target audiences closely align with yours. Companies need social mediaResponse via social media is also incredibly important given how quickly information spreads over the internet. Many stakeholders and the public rely on social media to get their news; as a result, social media should be used to reach employees, the public and stakeholders and utilized for responding to a crisis

Become the expert that media outlets turn to. Announce industry trends to the media along with expert analysis and thought leadership. Your target audience will connect more quickly when they hear and see you at the forefront of the latest business trends.

The author is The Founder and the Chairperson of Public Relations Association
of South Sudan (PRASS). The CEO of 3L -General Trading and Investment Company Ltd. Email: emmaloro9@gmail.com
Contacts: +211925744701/+211927699551

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