If you run a business, then you know that crises are inevitable. But whether your company survives or thrives depends largely on how you respond in the heat of the moment. If you and your team experienced a reputation crisis today, would you know the immediate steps you should take to maintain control, or would you take a wait-and-see approach and hope to survive once the dust settles?

Creating a list of your organization’s vulnerabilities ahead of time is a great starting point when deciding how you would respond in the moment. You can be sure to maintain control when sucked into the whirlwind of cancel culture and reputation crises by creating a proactive communication strategy in advance.

By mapping out your messaging strategy, you can tell your story in an engaging way rather than responding to someone else’s version and their perception of your values. But being in control of your response hinges on preparation. Here are some steps that you can take to maintain control and avert a crisis that could destroy your reputation and livelihood:

Plan Ahead

Crisis public relations planning helps you mitigate the damage a crisis can cause. Knowing what to do and whom to contact when an emergency arises is half the battle. Trying to figure out which stakeholders you need to contact during a disaster is not a good way to operate, and you’re susceptible to mistakes amid a panic. Your best bet is to have a disaster plan in place before a crisis ever hits.

Planning reduces the possibility of error and allows you to take charge should disaster strike because you have a roadmap to follow that outlines what you need to do to maintain control of the narrative.

Choose Your Team

When you are choosing members for your crisis communications team, it is important to remember that these people will serve as the voice of your organization. Ask yourself if they represent your organizational values. If you need help choosing, then professional crisis management experts can help you screen members for this team and advise you on the best people to select.

In many instances, the company’s CEO is the preferred face of the company’s response, but the top executive is not always right for the job. Find the best communicators and level-headed thinkers in your organization and prepare them to step up as your point-person until the crisis fizzles.

This person will also need to be prepared for on-camera interviews. He or she will need to respond to questions from the media and to connect reporters with sources for their stories if that is part of your response plan. This person will likely need specialized training so that they are comfortable speaking on-air, know how to properly prepare for interviews, and can deliver key talking points fluidly and with confidence.

You should also designate a social media manager to moderate your online channels, respond to or delete inflammatory posts, and keep tabs on what is being said online about your brand. Engaging in organic conversations between your organization and its online audience will make you stand out as confident when stress levels are high.

Outline Your Strategy

Businesses generally fall into two categories – those that want to be in the news and those that want to get out of the news. Your goal will help define your PR strategy.

Do you want to shine a light on a community project or drum up publicity for an employee who just won an award? Or is your brand being dragged through the dirt, and you’re looking for a way to exit the spotlight? Professional crisis PR experts have the media savvy and expertise to walk you through either scenario if you are not sure how to go it on your own.

Knowing how to get your story in front of the right reporters in the right way can be key to getting your message out effectively. If you do not know how to pitch reporters, set up press conferences, and prepare for interviews, it may be time to enlist the help of professionals or to dedicate time internally to learning. Capturing the media’s attention can be the best way to get your side of the story out fast, but it’s important to know how to best connect with journalists.

Your strategy should also include content creation, social media campaigns, and thought leadership pieces to help establish your credibility as a subject matter expert in your field. Understanding how crises occur and how to keep the fallout from spreading can require ongoing strategy and navigating many moving parts until negative buzz around your brand dwindles.

Invest in Media Outreach

Conducting on-camera interviews is often key to getting your story out, but many are wary of the process. Media training can demystify the interview process, helping you prepare for on-camera interviews and equipping you with tactics to ease anxiety and deliver a powerful narrative.

News coverage can help tell your brand’s unique story, stay relatable and set you apart from the competition. It can help communicate your vision to current and potential customers in an engaging way that furthers brand loyalty.

Reviews and Social Media

Protect and defend the reputation you have worked so hard to build. Whether you are a business owner, employee, or job seeker, your online reputation is extremely important to your professional success. Both modern consumers and employers use tools like Google and Yelp to find information about companies and individuals before doing business with them.

These online reviews can often make or break a business. Business owners need to pay attention to what’s being said about their brands online and should be prepared to address any negative comments. How you respond to these reviews will define the character of your company, reflect on your business, and color the way your brand is viewed by potential customers. 

Responding to customer reviews, whether they are good or bad, is good for business. Customers want to be heard, and timely responses directly from a brand are evidence that their thoughts count. Offering solutions to dissatisfied customers will show others that you care about your brand and its value.

Here Are Three Tips for Managing Online Reviews:

  1. Respond to negative reviews before they scare potential customers away. With so much information available at the fingertips of every person who goes online, a negative review without a company response can be misinterpreted as the truth. Responding to reviews in a timely and fitting manner shows engagement, awareness, and concern.
  2. Provide an explanation if something went wrong — but keep it brief. If a mistake was wrong, then admit it and offer to make amends. Provide an explanation of why the problem occurred and what you are doing to solve the issue. Explain why what happened was not in line with your values and brand.
  3. Invite an unhappy customer to a discussion offline. Apologize publicly for the problem, provide an explanation and then ask the customer to contact you by phone or email privately so you can discuss the issue at length and come to a mutually agreeable solution. It is not necessary to get into the nitty-gritty of the incident online. Instead, you should focus on engaging with them and making it right. Other potential customers will see that you are trying to resolve the issue and may remain loyal to your brand.

Experiencing an organizational crisis does not mean your business is running poorly or that you are a substandard organization. After all, crises are inevitable.

What you can control, though, is how your respond when the stakes are high, and your reputation is on the line. When in doubt, assess your vulnerabilities, assemble a trustworthy team, craft exceptionally strong messaging, and reach out for professional assistance from an experienced crisis management firm. Organizational crises can put your company to the test, but if you respond decisively, then you may come out even stronger than you were before.

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