Don’t Ignore a Looming Crisis. It Will Cost You More If You Do.
Remember the adage that bad news doesn't get better with age? True, but many organizations and their leaders tend to ignore that edict, to their detriment.
Case in point. I took a call not too long ago from a company about a sensitive matter. For the previous three weeks, the business found itself under attack by a distributor who launched a social media smear campaign purporting the precarious state of the company's consumer-oriented products. The posts led readers to believe a recall effort would occur in the not-too-distant future.
The company's owners told me about the little sleep they now get from dealing with the emails from customers, partners, and distributors that question their ability to continue doing business. They called asking for answers and hoped to resolve the matter quickly.
Unfortunately for them, though, the problem won't go away anytime soon. I estimated that the company would need to spend at least somewhere around the mid-five figures to deal with the negative backlash for at least six months, because they waited nearly three weeks before acting. Except for one obscure Facebook post, the company opted not to say anything until it got out of hand.
Don’t Wait, Confront a Crisis Sooner Rather Than Later
I get the organization’s position to a point. The fear of stoking the fires and exacerbating the problem is a natural concern, but this scenario illustrates a critical point. Companies that fail to respond immediately and correctly only allow the opposition to get their point of view told unabated. The opposition gets a head start in the blogosphere and search engine rankings. As they do, the costs to counter their claims must encompass more paid as well as organic efforts. That means the price goes up. Just ask United Airlines and its handling of the passenger that got dragged off their plane. Their delayed, muted, and insensitive response to the outrage cost them billions in market share and thousands of frequent flyer customers.
In going back to the manufacturing company, had they sought out expert advice from the start, their estimated cost would most likely be half of what I quoted. What's more, the price tag will only continue to go up as they debate if they should move forward, becoming a sort of death spiral.
Stories Don’t just Go Away in Today’s 24/365 Digital World
I don't care what kind of bad news a company faces. Even the smallest of issues can blow up on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Instagram. Though everyone may hope that the story "goes away’, that doesn't often happen in today's 24/365 digital information world. This example should serve as a lesson for business owners, executives, and other marketers. Whether you go it alone or with the help of an expert crisis communications expert, the fact remains that responding proactively to public claims, while not pleasant, is the lesser of two evils. Be sure to do so with openness, clarity, and sincerity. Show empathy and action for the circumstance and be forthright in articulating your actions. Most importantly, do these things sooner rather than later.
Better yet, crisis PR scenarios should be crafted like any disaster recovery plan: when it doesn't exist. Doing so helps to integrate these strategies better with company operations. Preparation for crisis scenarios can also give organizations time to train designated spokespersons on how to communicate better with a wide array of audiences. These include employees, customers, partners, investors, and the general public. Often, businesses that fail to prepare for handling crisis PR events will engage inquiring reporters but leave it at that. That only makes matters worse as the other audience group will feel disenfranchised and take their frustrations out on podcasts, online reviews, and other digital platforms.
Prepare for a Crisis Before it Occurs
The time to prepare for a crisis is always before it occurs. As John F. Kennedy once said, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” If you did wait, don’t worry. Most organizations entered the COVID-19 pandemic underprepared for this type of crisis. Whether you’re in need of immediate crisis response support to help your organization overcome the effects of coronavirus on your business or you want to use this downtime to start crisis planning for the future, we’re ready to help! Reach out to us today to get started.
Upstart Group has worked with David Oates, PR Security Service, to implement crisis communications plans for many of their clients as part of their overall strategic marketing plan. If you’re interested in learning more about how crisis planning can help your organization not only survive a crisis but potentially take advantage of the opportunity it may provide contact us today.
David Oates, APR, is the Principal of PR Security Service, a Crisis PR firm. He has 25 years of experience in the field. He helps organizations repair their brand's reputation in the press and online. David Oates can handle any Crisis PR situation and train others to do the same. As a U.S. Navy Public Affairs Officer and a corporate PR professional, he has dealt with a broad range of Crisis PR issues. These include mass layoffs, large-scale accidents, product recall, inappropriate acts by executives, and more. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how he can help you.