Fast Company

PR Crisis Management: Damage Control vs. Being Proactive

When a prospective client comes to me to help them manage a crisis, my first question is always, “Do you want to manage it or be proactive?” That question always bears more questioning, but it gets them to start thinking.

 

Crisis Management is just that – the management of a crisis. It actually puts attention on the crisis. As much as a corporation or organization would like to avoid a PR fiasco, a PR campaign that only puts attention on mitigating the damage is only going to put more attention on the fact that there is or was damage.

 

Let’s put it in a different light. Say there is a well-established manufacturing plant that backs up to a beautiful greenbelt, and the factory workers eat their lunch in a park that the factory had developed for their employees to enjoy. The workers loved it and over time started feeding the wildlife that lived in the wooded area and then one day, accidentally, one of the workers gets bit by a raccoon.

 

You can see where this is going… a PR nightmare to say the least. The rumor mongering could be horrendous. Rabies, missing digits, wildlife gone bad… The company should take the bull by the horn and do everything they can to help that worker, that family and even get a team of zoologists out there to segregate the park from the woods and start an entire educational process for the employees to not feed the wildlife. That’s step one.

 

But for Pete’s sake, don’t take the mediocre stance of figuring out how to craft messages about what to say in regards to any questions or attacks the company could get about their park or factory being unsafe. Why pour salt on the wound? The more the company puts out statements that the factory is safe, what do you really think is going to be formulating in people’s minds? Exactly. That it’s not safe.

 

So what do you do? This is where the creativity comes in. Obviously the manufacturing plant has been doing proactive things for their employees up until that point – they erected a park, didn’t they? Well, what about that story? Who is the founder? What was his/her vision for the factory? What are their secrets to expansion? What precedents have they set in their industry? Do they have industry leading advice they can impart? Who is amongst them that are long-time employees? How many long-time employees do they have? What community service work do they do? If they are a young company, then what is their niche? What opportunities have they created for young professionals? I mean the list goes on and on and on. The possibilities are endless of what can be done to create more goodwill than that one incident can take away.

 

The point is that you should never focus only on the negative. Make some lemonade. Address concerns, but outdo any negative news with positive news WHILE working to handle, control and mitigate the negative. Take responsibility while letting your customers, shareholders, employees, community and the media know what you stand for, what your accomplishments are and what is in store for your (and their) future.

 

You can take some very dire situations and turn them into a positive light for a corporation… you just need to know how to harness the powerful technology of public relations to communicate what you are really all about. Because what you’re really all about is not rabies… get my drift?

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