“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
While the digital revolution has opened up great potential to build a good reputation, it also has the power to bring it crashing down.
To minimise damage and maintain your reputation, you need to be able to respond positively in the face of serious allegations or complaints. Good PR advice will help you navigate your way through tricky situations and make the best of even the worst situations.
Advanced planning is the key to survival and the best defence is having a robust plan in place to begin with. Here’s what you need to think about:
- Identify the risks - think of anything you wouldn’t want to become public knowledge, ie is there anything negative that you, your employees or the company has done or said that may end up in the public arena? Or even if you think it's ok, think about how would others react if they found out and how you can defend it.
- Plan ahead - once you've identified potential risks, create a written plan which includes specific actions that will be taken in the event of a crisis. Your priorities are to protect anyone who may be endangered, ensure the key audiences are kept informed and, of course, that your organisation survives.
- Develop Holding Statements - these can be developed in advance and used for a wide variety of scenarios to which your organisation is perceived to be vulnerable. This means you will be better prepared in the event of an actual crisis.
- Identify a spokesperson - to ensure you speak with one voice and deliver a clear consistent message, a spokesperson must be identified as well as prepared to answer media questions and participate in interviews.
- Be honest and open - nothing generates more negative media coverage than a lack of honesty and transparency. Therefore, being as open as possible can help stop rumours and defuse a potential media frenzy. However, if a journalist contacts you unexpectedly, don't be tempted to answer their questions there and then but arrange a time for someone to call them back so you have time to prepare.
- Keep employees informed - maintaining an informed workforce helps ensure that business continues to flow as smoothly as possible. It also minimises the internal rumour mill that may lead to employees posting false reports on social media.
- Communicate with customers and suppliers - the last thing you want is for customers and suppliers to learn about your crisis through the media. Information on any crisis pertaining to your organisation should come from you first.
- Update early and often - it’s better to over-communicate than to allow rumours to fill the void. Issue summary statements, updated action plans and new developments as early and as often as possible.
- Don't forget social media - be sure to monitor social media, post what you want to say (if anything) and react to social media activity throughout the crisis.
- Post-crisis analysis – after it’s over, you must ask yourself what you’ve learnt. A formal analysis of what was done right, what was done wrong and what could be improved on can help you to avoid repeating past mistakes.