Part 2: Three things your brand can do to avoid a PR disaster
As a Type A news junkie, I’ll admit it—I was glued to the TV the day the interstate collapsed in the heart of Atlanta. I was at it once again when a massive storm system downed Delta’s operations and cancelled thousands of flights nationwide.
Okay, who am I kidding…like any news consumer, I’ve been fascinated by the recent reputational issues brands like United Airlines, Uber and even the White House have faced this year—and so have my colleagues. At the same time, as a PR professional, I empathize with these brands and their communications teams. Preparing for, preventing and weathering crises in the “fake news era”—where storylines evolve in real time—is uncharted territory for most.
What can you do to avoid having your brand at the center of the controversy?
1. Have an emergent plan—that fits your needs. Every company faces different types of reputational risks. Thus, you need to carefully plan for all kinds of issues unique to your business. Depending on the scenario, sometimes this can involve messaging and holding statements that are continually updated and other times, more comprehensive scenario planning is needed. The first step is assessing your business’s potential areas of risk, finding the right resources to help prepare you for all types of situations—and evolving those plans on an ongoing basis. Given their handling of sensitive information and risk for breaches, healthcare brands, especially, should take proactive steps to outline and prepare for potential crises.
2. Act quickly and communicate authentically. In the case of United Airlines, the public skewered CEO Oscar Munoz for his belated apology, which came after two days of silence. News cycles are now moving at warp speed, and so should brands with an appropriate response—when necessary. All companies will consistently face various types of reputation management challenges (internally and externally), and it’s important to strategically choose what, when and how to communicate in a way that conveys transparency and authenticity. You must craft the right strategy based on the situation, from which the right messaging and action plan should cascade.
3. Tell your positive stories—often. Getting out in front of situations is key to building and reinforcing credibility and brand affinity over time. Proactive communication goes a long way to strengthen reputation. Brands should offer stakeholders with the information they want and move situations toward resolution, even in a negative environment or with an antagonistic news media. To do this, companies should consider a carefully constructed communications strategy that accounts for potential reputational risks, and finds ways to create and align with positive news stories. The right content strategy, internal communications, influencer engagement and PR outreach can soften potential issues before they snowball into full-blown crises.
Overall, we all make mistakes—both humans and brands. When your brands takes a tumble, consumers and the media put significant pressure on your team and will have an opinion on how the situation is handled. Leading PR teams must be prepared for a crisis, be confident in the steps taken following the situation and work on regaining trust from consumers.
As news cycles continue to evolve, what steps are you taking to protect your brand’s reputation?