Why it’s best to keep calm and start with a cup of tea in a brand’s PR crisis

How to solve a brand's crisis PR and a media crisis

Being in a Consumer PR crisis for a brand is somewhat like being in a Rugby World Cup Final… There are 1,000s of people watching you closely, whilst powerful (media corporations) and influential people are preparing to run over the top of you…!

Needless to say it’s not a pleasant experience, but this blog will teach you how to use use some nifty footwork and planning that will help your brand come out of the experience in one piece…. and not on a stretcher *gulp*.

The key to any PR crisis is to be prepared and be able to work under pressure. Sir Clive Woodward the 2003 Rugby World Cup winning coach called this winning ability from his players as “Think Clearly Under Pressure” or TCUP for short.

So to achieve ‘TCUP’ in a PR crisis you must do the following

(some steps need to be ideally prepared beforehand for best results):

1 – Keep channels of communication open between you and journalists

DO NOT bury your head in the sand and ignore journalist’s phone calls, as you will leave a vacuum for them to speculate and it will annoy them. Try to win them onside by being helpful and asking for an opportunity to comment. Most (good) journalists will call you first to let you know they are running a negative piece of editorial. (See 2-3 for what to say)

2 – If appropriate, draft a holding statement

Usually bad PR arises from a product failure, industrial dispute or a disgruntled consumer(s). To get to the bottom of what is the issue may take time. So explain that your brand is taking the issue very seriously and is investigating. Let the journalists know when the investigation is finished and when they are likely to get a full response.

3 – Say sorry – it costs nothing and shows that we are human!

I don’t understand why politicians are so reluctant to say sorry, but we were happy to see this (below) from Nick Clegg – humility coupled with steps as to how you are going to address a problem and act quickly. If you don’t agree with his politics you can agree that this approach is a good piece of public relations (coupled with a catchy video that got played 100s of times via broadcast media and over 2m times on YouTube)!

Certainly via social media if a complaint is dealt with quickly and efficiently people usually become advocates for a brand. Also according to a study by American Express, brands are 21% more likely to receive future sales.

4 – Draft crisis Q&As and get staff media trained

We would expect that as part of any PR strategy you would have basic ‘crisis Q&As’ drafted. Try to brainstorm all the different negative questioning a journalist could fire at you and devise up reasoned answers to counter them. Avoid being cynical, sarcastic, vague and always stick to the facts!

PRACTICE your answers ‘under fire’ with a colleague and you might just avoid this situation (see the video below):

It goes without saying that investing in media training for your brand will pay dividends not only for crisis PR but for positive PR too. It will give you some insight into journalist tactics, what to say and what not to…

5 – Once you have all the facts go on the offensive and schedule interviews 

It’s the best form of attack and the best way to avoid a pummelling by those large media organisations. Have a crisis plan in place that involves PR, customer service, operations and legal departments so the entire brand organisation in briefed and on board. Then line up interviews with the journalists mentioned in Step 1 to get your point across. This should cover:

-You are sorry / disappointed at X & Y
-Your steps to help the consumer and rectify the wrong doing immediately
– What you have learnt as an organisation and the steps that you are putting in place

6 – ‘Be seen to listen’ 

One of the easiest targets is a large faceless organisation ignoring the consumer and media (see Section 1). Make sure that your brand is being seen to listen and that you are taking an issue seriously!

Go out of your way, armed with the responses above to respond to criticism / issues to show that you are listening as an organisation via the press office and social media. Remember that 70% of organisations do not follow up on complaints via Twitter or Facebook (usually due to fear or resources), so this is an opportunity to stand out as one of the corporate good guys.

Note: *You may get ‘trolls’ (people who love to complain to get reactions) via blog and social that will not let an issue go. Once you have responded via social media or email with a reasonable solution, you may be best advised to let it go, as it will only fan the flames!

Keep Calm and Drink Tea

What do you think? Let’s have a cuppa and find out… 🙂

Thanks to Dave Crosby for the image via Creative Commons. 

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About the author

Matthew Anderson

Matt is our Commercial Director. E-commerce & social media strategist, obsessed with the detail – KPIs, ROI & driving sales for your business. He had 8 years’ international experience in boosting sales on Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, John Lewis and e-commerce sites for Sphero, Brabantia, Hillfarm Oils, Groov-e to name but a few. From international social media strategies in Europe & Russia to working with Pilgrim’s Choice, The British Council, The North Face & Norseland Cheeses, he’s a storyteller, social media & blogging geek.