While most small business owners will never have to deal with a public relations crisis, it’s important to have a strategy in place in the event that one does occur. And in today’s social media sharing landscape, burying your company’s head in the sand is simply not an option.
Let’s say your company’s products are found to contain lead. Or your CEO is found to practice unscrupulous financial activity. Whatever the crisis, you can expect that people are going to hear about it, be it through traditional media (newspapers, radio and tv) or social media (many a company has been near-ruined by tweets that spread like wildfire. Take the Domino’s example). The key is knowing how your company will respond.
Rule #1: Be Transparent.
Really, this is the only rule. You have to take control of the situation by releasing a statement, reply or dispute against the PR crisis claim. Toys have lead? Make a public apology and promise (and plan to) that you’ll recall all affected toys and find a new source for your cheap Chinese plastics. Unfairly accused of embezzlement? Offer your financial statement to the public and your side of the story.
The key is using as many media sources as possible to tell your side. Since you are of course already on Facebook and Twitter (right??) you can make a statement there and ask people to share it. Put out a press release through a distribution service like PRWeb. Host the release on your company website. Reach out to media (especially if one media source was the cause of the crisis) and offer an exclusive interview to clear your company’s name. Record a video of a public apology and post on YouTube.
Why do all this? Because for years to come, you do not want top search results for your company to be associated with the crisis. You want pages and pages of results to be positive mentions of your company, and the best way to get that is to take control early and transparently.