Even the most established and experienced organizations will occasionally misstep and experience a major PR disaster. When this happens, your company needs to know which steps to take in order to restore customer trust and loyalty in your brand.
Here are three ways you can achieve that as a marketing consultant:
Once a PR crisis has been recognized, your company needs to release an official statement acknowledging the issue as soon as possible, and then take steps to gather information so that you can communicate what you know with the public. You need to take into account the people that are affected directly, as well as the feelings of the general public, as your response to the issue may affect them as future customers. This is particularly important in the age of social media, where information can go viral and spread very quickly.
When the Playstation Network was breached by hackers, a vast amount of confidential data was stolen, including credit card information. Despite the enormity of this problem, it took Sony over a week to make an official statement regarding this issue, leaving customers to wait anxiously. U.S Senator Richard Blumenthall ended up writing to Sony stating his concerns regarding the approach Sony was taking.
On the other hand, when a Southwest Airlines flight landed incorrectly, causing the landing gear under the nose to buckle and the plane to come to a skidding halt on the runway, the Southwest Airlines social media team sprang into action immediately. They gave their customers updates via Facebook and Twitter just minutes after the accident occurred, earning them some much needed goodwill considering the enormity of the situation.
When a PR disaster happens, as a marketing consultant you need to ensure your client implements a transparent approach. Don't attempt to downplay the seriousness of the situation (particularly if it affects the safety of people or the environment) and ensure you are open about all the facts. Honesty will help prevent the spread of misinformation and show that you are primarily concerned with your customer's needs, not with protecting your organization. This should include a public apology acknowledging the mistakes your organization made. Companies need to be careful how they approach this, however, as the legal implications could be significant.
The Deepwater Horizon oil-spill is one example of how BP tried to downplay a massive disaster. BP tried to cover up the extent of the problem, but the issue was simply too big to hide. The oil-spill caused eleven deaths, had a terrible impact on the environment, affected the health of a number of people connected to the spill and had a devastating effect on the economy of the area. This resulted in the largest corporate fine ever in the U.S. ($15.4 billion dollars) and massive damage to BP’s reputation.
When Taco Bell was hit by a lawsuit claiming that their beef products only contained 35% beef, they averted disaster by taking a completely open approach. The company shared all the ingredients that were used: 88% beef and 12% other ingredients. They even revealed what these other ingredients were and their role in creating the delicious Taco Bell flavour.
We've all heard the phrase "The customer is always right". It’s important to take this approach when trying to recover from a PR disaster and create empathy. Even if your company is not at fault, it's important to recognize the problems experienced by the consumer and act in their favor so that they stay on your side.
Again taking a look at the BP oil spill, former CEO Tony Hayward responded to the disaster by saying “I’d like my life back”. He later apologized, but this was yet another blunder in BP’s approach to what was undoubtedly a catastrophic event.
The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 was not just a PR disaster - it was a human tragedy. Customers were undoubtedly shaken by the news that the co-pilot had intentionally crashed the plane, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of all on board. Even though the company itself was absolved of any blame, Germanwings did not continue business as usual. It recognized the emotional impact that such a catastrophe would have not only on its clients but also its staff, and took the necessary steps to ensure that those who were impacted by the loss were helped, and that customers and staff felt safe flying with them.
PR disasters can have a huge negative impact on your company. By implementing the approaches above, your company will be ready to handle and recover from any PR issues.
At Proforma Durkee, we pride ourselves on being strategic partners who are able to understand your needs, wants and concerns. Have a look at our infographic Horror stories no marketer ever wants to experience for some insight into past mistakes made by other businesses and how we can help you grow your brand from strength to strength.