Article

Julie Cave
Julie Cave 12 February 2018

Public Relations Disaster: How To Bounce Back

Public relations can be a tricky thing for business. On one hand, you need to engage with the public to increase brand awareness and therefore drive increased sales; on the other hand, when you get it wrong, the public can be brutal. With social media becoming a source of interaction with the public, it can also provide new and disastrous ways to damage your brand.

Public relations can be a tricky thing for business. On one hand, you need to engage with the public to increase brand awareness and therefore drive increased sales; on the other hand, when you get it wrong, the public can be brutal. With social media becoming a source of interaction with the public, it can also provide new and disastrous ways to damage your brand.

Social media PR disasters comes in a range of fails and embarrassments. They can be simple slips, like posting a harmless link to a funny video or a personal message. These mistakes are easily rectified since they don’t really reflect poorly on the company besides showing its social media person has made a mistake.

There are also slips that can do serious damage to your brand: The inappropriate opinion, the insensitive statement, the false reward and the hack.

Inappropriate opinion and the insensitive statement occur when an opinion or statement goes out over your social presence that is either inappropriate to your brand or to the format. This, as with most slips, can occur by accidentally posting or by posting something that should have been better edited or thought out ahead of time. You can mitigate this risk by making sure that the person responsible for your social media is appropriately experienced and qualified to do so.

The false reward is when a company offers a deal or prize which they cannot actually deliver. It can be as simple as accidentally adding an extra zero to a prize amount without noticing until too late.

The hack is both the most dangerous and the easiest to recover from. If someone breaks into your account you can tell your fans what happened, but your security has also been compromised and your accounts could be targeted again.

A public relations disaster can happen to any business. Here’s how to bounce back.

How to Bounce Back from a Public Relations Disaster

Own it

You’ve probably heard people say that you need to own it when you make a mistake, and that’s great advice. Set up an independent investigation with authority to act on behalf of the brand while the crisis unfolds – you may need to employ someone externally for this. Being silent or slow to communicate with the outside world can do more harm to the brand than good.

Whoever is tasked with dealing with the public relations disaster should act quickly enough to keep up with the press and social media. Monitor what’s being said about you on social media and elsewhere in order to gain an up-to-date understanding of what the public really thinks of you. Without it, your company won’t know which messages to focus on 

and which to stay away from.

Don’t fight with your customers

As much as you might want to engage in some verbal jousting on social media, that will make your PR disaster even worse. Bite your tongue, and let customers throw some grenades your way. When the smoke clears, you’ll be better off for having taken the tongue lashing with class.

Turn it into an opportunity

The best companies turn PR disasters into opportunities. They reach out to customers, humanize their brands, and solve problems. If you know how to treat people, especially during challenging circumstances, and benefit from a PR disaster, you are here to stay.

Reach out to your friends

Get ahold of your friends, fans, and business contacts, find out who’s running with the news, and then contact them all, one by one, to share your own perspective. In short, drum up an army of ambassadors. Arm them with the tools, talking points, and outreach ability so they can start a dialogue with the local community.

Don’t be defensive

Forget about advertising your position or being defensive. Instead, overreact in favor of the consumer – especially if they’ve suffered a loss 

because of your mistake.

Ask yourself what the brand should offer each and every consumer–as compensation so generous that your detractors will be compelled to say that you’re doing even more than you need to in order to make it right. The long term consequences of not doing this might be far greater than the short term loss

Act fast

Your competitors might see an opportunity in the midst of your public relations disaster.  At this stage, your industry rivals will be poised to acquire your customers. If you don’t act fast, you may start losing customers which only compounds the issue.

Rebuild your reputation

While the short-term machine is in action to manage the outrage, go back to the drawing board and ask yourself what’s needed in order to recover your long-term reputation. Remember you’ve just lost your most essential brand value–trust–so anything and everything you say in the future will be questioned.

A public relations disaster can be a problem for you – but you can also bounce back. The key is to act quickly and get professionals in your corner as quickly as possible.

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