Experiencing a public relations crisis? Continue reading this article to learn how to recover from a PR disaster.
Reputation can be everything in the world of online commerce. Yes, your customers primarily judge you by the style and content of your site. But with social media out there, allegations of malfeasance—or the repercussions of an honest mistake—can circulate the globe in nanoseconds.
If this happens to you, recovering from a PR disaster might seem like a monumental task. However, if you consider the following advice, you can pull through to sell another day.
Recovering From A PR Disaster
Ignoring It Only Makes Things Worse
Innocent until proven guilty doesn’t work here. If everyone is talking and you’re saying nothing, the world will believe you’re guilty. To preserve your dignity, your first move should be to take control of the situation. Announce an independent investigation and communicate its actions loudly and regularly.
Jump on the problem as soon as it becomes public knowledge so your concern is immediately evident. Transparency is your friend, regardless of the eventual outcome. If you turn out to be innocent, everyone will remember you stepped up right away. If it goes the other way, you’ve got a head start toward repairing the damage.
Monitor Social Media Carefully
Social buzz is likely to be prolific and vitriolic. Develop a list of the keywords to follow to keep track of what’s being said. Analyze posts to keep your finger on the pulse of the incident. This will help you determine the messages around which you need to focus your response.
Avoid Flame Wars
Your first impulse might be to try to shut down the people saying negative things about you with allegations of your own against them. That’s a huge mistake. You have everything to lose, while your accusers have everything to gain in the form of traffic to their sites.
This is nectar for trolls. The harder you fight to shut them down, the louder and uglier they will get—often transcending the bounds of reality. This will make a bad situation worse. Work hard to get your side of the story out there, but without mentioning those who are talking about you.
If It’s Your Bad, Say So
Let’s say you sell your furniture online and one of your lines of chairs suddenly began collapsing and injuring people. If the investigation determines you were indeed at fault, say so, apologize and announce your plan to make whole those who suffered. You also need to make public your plan to prevent a recurrence.
These actions will go a long way toward generating public sympathy and eventual forgiveness. Don’t think for one moment about hiding your findings. Things always come to light.
If you’re discovered keeping information away from the public, it will get much, much worse. Do not resort to canned responses. Speak in plain language; do not read from a script. Your apology has to ring sincere.
If key members of your staff were responsible for the disaster, you’ll have to decide whether they should be forced to resign. There are two schools of thought here. On the one hand, giving the public a sacrificial lamb might ease their ire.
On the other hand, if this person is a key member of your team and made an honest mistake, it might be worth slapping them on the wrist and keeping them on. Ultimately, you’ll have to let the situation dictate your response in that regard. But you definitely need to announce your plan for internal changes to make sure the situation never happens again.
Recovering from a PR disaster is simply a matter of taking ownership of the state of affairs and being responsible toward it—all the way through. Your reputation is your best form of currency. If you handle the incident properly, with sincerity, you can come back from it.