Brands and businesses know how important it is to protect their reputation. In the midst of a crisis, reputations that have been so hard to build can be easily destroyed and the effects can be hard to undo. It doesn’t take much to provoke a crisis, sometimes just a simple mistake on social media can be enough. But other times share values falling sharply, lawsuits, contaminated or dangerous goods, investigations, or even a new, slightly controversial, marketing tactic you couldn’t wait to try, may be enough to damage a brands reputation and enter a real crisis period.

Today’s fast-paced digital world presents a challenge as customers expectations are higher than ever meaning brands are expected to have full transparency and communicate openly. Because of this open narrative, often people take straight to social media to call brands out – when historically you may have just sent an email to complain. Nowadays, it can all be done in the public domain. This means that things can quickly be picked up by the press and seen by millions of people before you have chance to get it under wraps – which is why it is more essential than ever that you are prepared for a PR crisis.

The fast paced digital world we live in means it is essential that you are prepared for a PR crisis

The key to any crisis communication is to be proactive, transparent and accountable. Unlike a lot of brands in 2019 that failed to do so. For example Chinese telecommunications company Huawei was accused by the U.S. of being a security risk and a thief of commercial secrets. When these accusations were brought to light in the media, the CEO failed to talk to reporters or appear in an public sense – intensifying the perception of secrecy and possible complicity with the Chinese government. This lack of communication was a poor mistake as it resulted in damaging media coverage causing reputation issues for the brand.

Another example is high street retailer H&M who provoked chaos all over the press and social media when they released a poorly thought-out ad of a young black boy wearing a hoodie which read “Coolest monkey in the jungle”.  Many people found it to be racist and inappropriate, but the company only reacted by sending out their first apology a day after – a day too late some might say. Good practice wasn’t followed as neither the CEO, the chairman, nor other higher-ups’ names were associated with this crisis or found in the apology post.

When it comes to a PR crisis the key is to be prepared as opposed to trying to figure out what to do once everything is going wrong – if it reaches this point, it’s a little too late! Working out all the possible scenarios and having a plan is essential. Knowing who your spokespeople are and what they should say in case A, B, C, or D happens, knowing if you should run a press conference, how you should deal with criticism on social media, and how quick you should be to respond. Having an appropriate plan in place with all relevant bodies on board is essential and will stand you in good stead should you face a PR crisis. And remember, crisis’ are not only public-facing as they can start within your company – internal comms should be covered too!

It doesn’t matter how much you plan or how well you manage threatening issues – news travels face in this online era. If everything seems to be falling apart and the press are on the doorstep, you require an immediate short-term strategy to deal with the situation as well as a long-term communication plan to reinstate your brand and restore your reputation.

As the old saying goes, if you fail to prepare – you prepare to fail.

At Prohibition we work with a range of brands to help with crisis management issues and to protect their reputation that they have worked so hard to build. Contact us today to find out how we could help your brand avoid a PR crisis. Drop us an email at: hello@prohibitionpr.co.uk.

About Marta Rijo