If I asked you to name five businesses which had suffered PR hell in the past year, it wouldn’t take you long – Toyota, BP, Hamleys (remember the live reindeer and penguins before Christmas), Sky Sports and BAA all spring to mind.
Of course no business can totally prevent disaster striking – after all BAA couldn’t stop the snow falling before Christmas. But they can all prepare and plan how they’ll react when the worst happens.
Effective crisis management will anticipate potential problems, identify vulnerabilities in the business response and put systems in place to deal with them.
A vital part of this is handling the media fall-out.
A rat runs across the steps of 10 Downing Street on live TV and you know the media will have a field day. Make sure the ‘humane rat catcher’ is also spotted by the cameras and it’s crisis-averted
Be picked up by TV microphones making off-colour comments about a female footie official and you’re definitely in for some stick. With no apology and further footage emerging, then your career’s in nosedive.
As Andy Gray found, a crisis badly handled in the media can literally end careers, and wipe millions off a business’s value.
So what are the big no-nos in managing the media if your business is in crisis?
- Don’t hide your head in the sand and hope the media will go away. It won’t. And it will just egg the journalists on.
- Don’t refuse to comment. Immediately this makes you seem as if you have something to hide.
- Don’t allow anyone to do interviews with journalists who you don’t trust to stay on message in the face of difficult questions, and who hasn’t been carefully briefed and media trained. Tony Hayward is the most prominent example of this going wrong
- Don’t lie and dissemble if you’re in the wrong. You will be found out. And don’t blame anyone else.
- Don’t refuse to apologise for wrong-doing – an apology and a promise to investigate and take action is very effective
- Don’t only engage with the media at the time it’s all falling apart – good relationships and a good reputation will help ensure you have a gentler ride in times of trouble
- And lastly – don’t hope you can just wing it. You must have an effective crisis management plan which can swing into action, in which everyone knows what to do, how to do it and when
Of course, none of this can prevent problems in the first place, but if you avoid these seven mistakes it will help mitigate the fall-out.
Don’t forget, Rough House is happy to provide help and support with the crisis management planning and crisis communications training so you can ensure your response to any problem doesn’t turn it into a disaster for your business.