Managing that Disaster Date with the Media
A sound damage control plan could mean the difference between a minor blip and getting doors shut in your face for good!
The “C” word seems to be the new buzz when it comes to publicity these days – Facebook, Twitter, blogs – one click and you’re connected to the world – the good, the bad, and the ugly! Everyone is hungry for news. So it’s no surprise that the big “C” is enjoying a great deal of publicity. I’m talking about CONTROVERSY, people. The biggest celebrity controversy to hit the news is the recent announcement from reality star Kim Kardashian – she’s getting divorced after only 72 days! Courting the media is nothing new to Kim and she thrives on it. But this time round, her fans are not amused. Sometimes, too much publicity can land you in heaps of trouble. As we write this blog, a petition is circulating online (over 125,000 signatures and counting) – demanding that all Kardashian reality shows be pulled off the air.
Surviving the C – Controversy and Crisis
It doesn’t matter if you’re a multi-million dollar earning celebrity, a huge multinational corporation, or a small enterprise – no one is immune from the dangers of publicity. Controversial or not, if you’re facing a crisis, it’s not a matter to be taken lightly. A crisis, if handled poorly, can disrupt or destroy your best efforts to manage any remaining opportunity to resolve the situation, recover, rehabilitate, or retain your reputation.
These days, celebrities and us lesser mortals alike are turning to PR agencies to help manage crises with proper damage control. PR professionals are media savvy – dealing with journalists is what they know and do best, and they are always prepared – well the good ones anyway!
No PR crisis is small – it can damage your integrity and credibility, and ultimately may negatively impact your brand and cost your business. Whether it’s your own doing or that of an outsider, what matters is that you act fast and clean up the mess by having a damage control plan in place. While damage control alone may not be able to fully contain the situation, it can at least minimize the potential harm.
For tips on managing a crisis, read on.
1. Be ready with your PR team. Your publicist should be at the forefront of any damage control plan. If you don’t have one, get a team of people together – insiders who know you and your company inside out, equipped with a solid knowledge of the crisis at hand, and who are in good position to represent you. This could be top management, your legal team, and even your marketing people.
Next, appoint a spokesperson. He should be the one dealing with the media and must avail himself for interviews. A big plus if he’s a good, calm and confident public speaker. More importantly, he has to have great tolerance for the media and not be easily riled by their inquisition.
2. Honesty is the best policy – be transparent. A crisis is better managed if it is unexposed to the media. But if it’s found a way to the media, be responsive and act fast. Don’t hide from the media. Instead provide them with transparent and honest information. If you’re at fault, admit it and state your intentions clearly to resolve the crisis. The worst thing you can do is lie – the media is quick to catch on, and you may land yourself in deeper trouble if you don’t come clean.
3. Issue a public statement. At the initial stage, all you need is a public statement. It should detail every aspect of the crisis, your view, and your response to the problem. Send the statement to the relevant media groups. Releasing a public statement reiterates your accountability and responsiveness to the crisis, and taking responsibility for your actions. Issue a public apology if necessary.
4. Have a prepared script ready. The script will primarily be used by your spokesperson and/or designated PR personnel during interviews. Scripts are important to keep everyone on the same page – it ensures the dissemination of consistent statements from the source of origin. Scripts though, should not be read like words off a teleprompter and should be delivered as naturally as possible, and appear spontaneous.
5. Don’t wait to be hunted down. If your crisis is newsworthy, sometimes getting ahead of the media is in itself an effective crisis management tool. This way, you get to highlight your awareness of the problem and your willingness to be publicly scrutinized — and that will take your credibility up a notch. So before the news hits the editorial desks, go ahead and publicize the crisis. You’ll get to tell your story on your terms and be seen as genuinely attempting to resolve the problem.
Last but not least, keep in mind that the state of your reputation when you encounter a crisis is dependent on how you respond to it. A sound damage control plan could mean the difference between a minor blip and getting doors shut in your face for good!