Not all PR is good PR … or is it? media update had a firsthand experience with a serious public relations crisis and we have learned a few important lessons along the way — especially on how to deal with social media backlash.

Here’s what we realised, first and foremost: Being aware of what to look out for when writing content is essential if you want to ensure that you will steer clear of any PR crisis.

Why? Because it can be so easy to miss the small things that could potentially land you in hot water (or should we rather say boiling water — it sure felt like it!)

With this being said, media update’s Talisa Carlson takes a closer look at the lessons learned during a PR crisis, as well as mistakes to avoid when mentioning other brands in your content.

Ready to swim in the pot of hot water? Then let’s go:

Crisis comm lesson 1: Communicate like never before

A crisis can start at any given time, which means that once you are aware of the issue, you need to start communication with the relevant departments immediately. This is a great way to ensure that you are taking everyone into consideration before making the next move.

The moment you are aware of a crisis taking place, your first response should be to communicate. This stands true — no matter the time of day! Your go-tos should be the following:
  • your immediate team
  • human resources
  • the stakeholders of the company, and
  • managers that will be affected by the situation at hand.
Find out what their opinions are and how they think you should deal with the issue. Filling them in will also equip them to deal with any impacts that they could potentially face because of the incident.

Listening to more than one opinion on the matter will ensure that you don’t miss anything important when considering a way forward.

media update top tip: Make use of a social media tracking and reporting service to ensure that you have reaction lists. This offering will send out immediate messages to your brand if you are mentioned in a negative light.

Crisis comm lesson 2: Be professional and sincere

As creatives, we work in an industry where we are not safe from public opinions or criticisms. In light of this, it can become easy to be very defensive. After all, you did the research and you ensured all your facts are straight, right? If not, read our previous media update article titled Misinformation, disinformation and fake news: What readers should know.

It is vital to keep personal feelings aside when it comes to dealing with a PR crisis. Throughout a public relations crisis, you need to show professionalism and sincerity.

It is important to remember that, as a PR pro, you have a lot of influence on how people view the brands that you represent. It is essential to know when you should and shouldn’t apologise, and ensure that your actions are always sincere and reflect what you and your brand stand for — morally, ethically and professionally.

Crisis comm lesson 3: Be prepared

When you are creating content for a client or for your agency, it can be very easy to land in hot water without you even realising that you would. This is why you always need to be prepared.

Be ready with a written statement that has been approved by the team, managers and stakeholders. This will ensure that if you step into a dangerous territory, you can take effective action to contain the flames before it turns into a full blazing fire.

Being prepared for the worst will also ensure that you can get on top of the issue ASAP, leaving little to no room for social media to drag your name through the mud.

It is vital to be aware that different people will always believe in different things, and that you will never be able to please or resonate with the entirety of the general population.

So, when (yes, when) you do end up offending someone, handle the situation quickly and effectively, aiming to reach the audiences that matter most. Your end goal should be to have their support in what you said, how you said it, or how you have dealt with the issue at hand.

Have you recently experienced a PR crisis? How did you handle it and what tips do you have for others? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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Want to learn from a pro? Then be sure to read How to be a crisis comms expert: A Q&A with Samantha Fuller.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy