How to Survive a PR Nightmare

How to Survive a PR Nightmare

We hope it never happens to you and your  business – a crisis, a PR nightmare, a story that is/isn’t true that takes on a life of its own.  But like most situations in life, how far you fall matters less than how gracefully you recover. Bouncing back with a swift and solid PR strategy can help you mend your mistake and boost your company’s image in the process. Doing nothing will only damage your brand, alienating your clients and potential business partners.

Lori Loughlin’s crisis PR strategy is a perfect example of what not to do when your personal or professional image has taken a hit. Instead of addressing her role in the recent college admissions scandal like Felicity Huffman did, Loughlin has been going about business as usual, attending pilates classes and having lunch with friends. Ignoring her looming charges of mail fraud and money laundering conspiracy has reflected badly on the actress, reinforcing the notion that a wealthy Hollywood actress has enough money, resources, and privilege to buy her family’s way out of (or into) anything.  Huffman may have a career again one day, but the limelight has been shifted onto Loughlin for all the wrong reasons.

When Duke freshman Zion Williamson blew out his shoe and injured his knee in a basketball game against UNC, Nike immediately released a statement  to acknowledge the incident and wish Williamson a speedy recovery.  The company took ownership of the problem — acting swiftly, showing concern and communicating to the public that they were working to identify the issue.  Nike has been praised for their quick, effective response and for doing the right thing – continuing to hold contracts with sports teams across the country and remaining one of the most popular athletic brands in the world.  And, guess what? When Zion returned to the court, he was wearing Nike. 

Want to be more like Nike? Here’s how to handle a crisis PR campaign the right way:

  1. Take responsibility right away. In an age where news goes viral almost instantly, you need to respond with equal speed. Taking too long to address your mistake may make it seem like you’re dodging the issue or trying to wait out the storm. Write a press release and post on social media to take control of the situation.
  2. Be transparent. Allow for clients to interact with you across multiple platforms where they can express their questions and concerns. Instead of arguing with them publicly, extend an apology, and let them in on your plan to make things right.
  3. Get ready for backlash. Even the best crisis PR campaigns may not be bulletproof. Don’t fuel the fire, and avoid knee-jerk reactions. Take a step back and put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Consider how they may have been hurt, disappointed, or blindsided, then create and share your recovery plan.
  4. Dig deep. Once the worst of the crisis is over, reconsider what created the problem in the first place. Did a new partnership not pan out the way you were hoping? Was there a lack of communication within your team, or did you prioritize immediacy over quality? Creating an internal system of accountability will prevent similar setbacks in the future.
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