Putting it Right: Rebuilding After a PR Crisis
Sooner or later we all make mistakes. Sometimes, those missteps lead to PR challenges. And sometimes, a PR crisis happens through no fault of our own at all. But when it does happen – and it will – what will you do to protect your brand and reputation in the marketplace? How can you rebuild after a crisis? Let’s explore that question.
First, you need to own up and establish communication. One of the most important steps in rebuilding your brand after a PR crisis is the initial response. You need to step up and show initiative. Even if there was a terrible mistake. Even if owning up will be hard or expensive or painful, it’s better to do that than to have others force you into it.
The main reason to establish an early connection is that you want to control the narrative going forward, at least as much as possible. You don’t want yourself in a situation where the news media is “breaking” a new negative headline about your PR mishap every few hours. You want to be driving those headlines by initiating communication and delivering salient narratives that get traction in the court of public opinion.
But that doesn’t mean just spouting out whatever you think people want to hear in that moment. Remember, there are very few “take backs” in communication these days. With that in mind, you need to prepare a statement that is honest, connective, and consistent with your brand’s established voice and mission. People appreciate consistency and calm, especially in a crisis. While emotion is okay and sometimes appropriate in certain situations, you do not want to add confusion or drama to a crisis.
Project growth and receive understanding. One of the most vital components of getting whole after a PR miscue is communicating progression and growth. People know you messed up. They want to know what you will do about it. So take this opportunity to show them. Be specific and relatable, not canned and robotic. Offer humanity and warmth, not callous boilerplate “apologies” they’ve heard countless times before.
Once you have projected an awareness of your imperfections and your intention to grow, you need to communicate your strategy for doing better next time. Show your audience how you will keep this problem from transpiring again. Give people confidence that you’re not only going to do better, but also that your systems and programs will shift in a way that protects you from making similar errors in the future.
Most importantly, throughout this process, you should focus on being responsible, not placing blame. That doesn’t mean taking responsibility for mistakes that are not your own. This is about being visibly responsible for your brand’s protection and betterment.
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