Crisis management – when sorry seems to be the hardest word!

March 24, 2021

Whether you are a local business, an A-list celebrity, or a national or global organisation – reputation is a fragile thing.

It may have taken years to build up, but it can be dashed or destroyed in a moment.

Social media is now a huge platform for critics, campaigners and disgruntled customers to damage and discredit personal or professional reputations.

Gone are the days when the only way of giving a reaction or statement to a story was as a result of being doorstepped by a journalist. There is now a virtual world that can comment on your behalf, whether you like it or not.

Throw the word ‘crisis’ into the mix, and you may be tempted to close down your Twitter account or boycott your local newspaper.

However, get your crisis management policy correct, and this is where the ‘two sides to every story’ saying really comes into its own.

Cetti Long, PR manager at Media Matters PR and digital marketing specialists, has some tips:

  • If contacted by the media, have a policy in place of who within the company should officially speak to the press and ensure the rest of the team know and act on this
  • Never give a ‘no comment’ or shy away from responding – it gives the impression that you have something to hide
  • Take time to formulate your response (ideally use a PR agency to act on your behalf or your inhouse comms team) and ensure it meets the journalist’s deadline
  • If you are at fault – be bold and give an apology, outlining your process for putting things right. It may work to get objectors back on side
  • If you receive a bad or negative review on social media – always reply. Again, staying silent can give the impression you don’t care or are ‘guilty’ of the accusation in some way. If you can, take the conversation away from the public domain and if applicable, arrange to meet the objector in person
  • Address negative reviews on platforms like Trust Pilot and Goole in a similar way
  • Take your apology online if appropriate. By videoing your apology, not only could it help you to reach a wider audience, but it will also allow you to be emotive and show the ‘human’ and ‘softer’ side of your brand or individual personality – which can sometimes be lost or misinterpreted in the written word.

Cetti added: “Keeping your brand and personal reputation or profile intact as much as possible is key; even though it may be bruised or lead to a loss of pride, custom or sales as an immediate result.

“Even the biggest companies have been affected by negative headlines that have seen the crisis management wheels move into motion; like the Cadbury worm-infested chocolate bar in India claims, and the hoax syringe in the drinks can scandal that affected Pepsi.

“It is the way in which you or your company communicates with the general public and indeed its shareholders during a ‘crisis’ that can be pivotal in determining whether it bounces back stronger or its reputation is critically damaged for the long term.”