Crisis Communications: What to do when your business reputation is on the line

Accidents happen. Incidents happen. Sometimes to the biggest and ‘best’ businesses out there.

But it shouldn’t really matter whether you and your business are ‘big’ or ‘small’.

If you’ve spent years of your hard-earned cash and sacrificed so-called work/life balance to build your business. If your personal reputation and brand is on the line if you’re CEO or GM. If something goes wrong, then why wouldn’t you have planned for that gut-wrenching moment when someone dies, someone lies, or someone lays the blame on you?

Sadly, it seems a fair few businesses adopt the head-in-the-sand approach to crisis communications.

WHY?

Being honest enough to admit that you and your business are not perfect (that business really, truly doesn’t exist) and being prepared before the crisis happens is not that hard.

Yes it costs to call on a communication company for training and in the event of a crisis. But what’s at stake here? The most important thing in your business is your reputation; what you’ve built up over the years is something you should be prepared to protect.

SO, HAVE A CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS PLAN.

If you’re in any kind of business you’ll no doubt have operational plans, rules and regulations coming out of your ears. In, for example, aviation, adventure tourism, or events, the levels of compliance are probably driving you nuts, as you’re constantly having to refresh or re-do the mounds of *online* paperwork or show that you meet the latest standards.

But what’s the point in having all that documentation if it can all be unravelled in a matter of two or three days if you don’t respond appropriately to a crisis?

CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS 101

Southern PR’s Director Fiona Woodham shares her ‘Crisis Comms 101’ top tips to help get you started:

  • Consider all the scenarios (from death, to injury, to your workplace burning down or a staff member going rogue)
  • Think about how, when and why you will communicate clearly and effectively with media, stakeholders, staff and customers
  • Think about how you will communicate with all relevant agencies involved in your incident – these might be police, your industry representatives, Victim Support or even the likes of your local RTO or Tourism New Zealand
  • Consider what your key messages would be around any of the potential incidents that might afflict your business and how and when you would communicate those to ultimately protect your business and achieve a ‘business as usual’ status
  • Review your operational plans in the light of the above scenarios and ask yourself whether you’re comfortable with successfully delivering timely, accurate and targeted crisis communications to all the channels above while you’re in the middle of dealing with the incident itself
  • Contact your PR agency so they can review your plans and assess what levels of training might be required BEFORE you need to put them into action

Accidents happen. Incidents happen. They’re going to happen because no matter how well you think you know your business and the people that work in or on it, human nature comes to the fore. People make mistakes. Things go wrong.

“Say sorry,” says Fiona.

“The company is sorry, the staff are devastated, saying sorry isn’t an admission of guilt. It’s all about reputation and trust, not about pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes.”

Businesses that deal with incidents best, big or small, are inevitably the ones that have planned for the unthinkable and are confident that their systems, processes and training are in place.

Hear more from the Southern PR team on what it takes to prepare for a crisis in our upcoming workshop – Southern PR Presents…Crisis Management 101.

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Is Public Relations Still Relevant?

Public relations has never been more relevant.

In today’s 365/24/7 news cycle, public relations has never been more relevant. The PR landscape has changed, but so has the focus of traditional agencies and in-house PR departments.

Everything you (a business or brand) say and do as a business is PR, whether it’s through traditional media channels, social media, blogger and influencer relations or brand communications.

The core of PR hasn’t changed – PR is about exchanging stories, expressing ideas and sharing conversations. Technology has changed the channels but PR is still about great storytelling, and the future of PR is about creating a ‘shareable’ experience.

We’re living in an ever-changing world of cross-channel integration, blending PR and media relations, social media and digital to successfully deliver campaigns across multiple channels. We’re engaging with our chosen audiences at the right time to inspire consumers to take notice, and take action.

A world of ‘new’ editorial opportunities

We firmly believe the traditional media release still has an important role to play for newsworthy content to reach editors of newspapers, magazines, online channels and bloggers. In fact, it’s one of the most beneficial tools if accompanied with creative visuals or video.

In this day and age, it’s imperative for companies and brands to produce shareworthy visuals to help increase exposure. Media are hungry for newsworthy content and they’re disseminating those visuals or the latest news (and remember the definition of news is ‘new’) through print, online and social media channels to engage their readers in conversation.

We live in a social media-obsessed culture so as part of your campaign strategy it’s essential to think about how your content can be reused or repurposed for different platforms to reach your audience. It’s a bit of an art form, but hey, that’s where PR companies come in!

Social Media Prism-Public relations-Southern PR

[Image: Conversation Prism]

Social media channels provide amazing opportunities to chat daily to customers, share stories and learn about each other, adding that human face to your company. Whether you’re collaborating with today’s public figures, thought leaders, bloggers and influencers or targeting your audience through traditional media channels, there are now more opportunities than ever to successfully tell your story.

The integrated public relations approach – top tip

As an agency, we help our clients get their ‘ducks in a row’ to develop content for each channel that accurately delivers key messages and is consistent with brand vision and values. We often align our campaigns with a ‘four C’s’ approach to ensure every piece of content is best placed to generate the results it deserves.

Coherence – different communications are logically connected

Consistency – multiple messages support and reinforce, and are not contradictory

Continuity – communications are connected and consistent through time

Complementary – synergistic (sum of the parts is greater than the whole)

Have you got a story to tell? We can help develop a PR and marketing strategy that delivers on your business goals, or help your marketing team deliver your next PR campaign. Get in touch today. We’re listening.

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