During the period of social movement and COVID-19 outbursts, I have received many inquires regarding the PR crisis. As I am operating a digital agency, I always thought that the PR agency should have more professional knowledge than me. However, these days most of the marketing projects are deeply related to digital platforms. It leads to the development of the PR crisis on social media. So, in the end, it seems I do have something to deal with the PR crisis.
An International Brand With a PR Crisis
Once there was an international toothpaste brand that encountered a PR crisis. There was a furious discussion on the internet. The brand had come to me for a solution to resolve the online discussions. Whenever I encounter similar cases, I would first make a general understanding from three directions.
- First, does the brand have its PR team and PR agency, and have they provided any responses or suggestions yet? If the PR team already comes up with a set of countermeasures, the digital platform should act accordingly. This is to ensure that the information released by the two parties is in the same direction. There shouldn’t be varied opinions.
- Second, check whether the brand has a crisis management team. Are there any related procedures for crisis management? Brands hope to manage the crisis on the digital platform ASAP, but that should not be focused on one side only. The important thing is to align with the company’s overall direction. If the company doesn’t have a crisis management team, it must immediately set up resources for the latter response.
- Finally, I will then study the method for coping with and the way to install it. Through all these will then bring forth the best outcome for the brand and the customers.
The Most Effective Way to Deal With a Crisis
It’s difficult to generalize the most effective way of dealing with crises. Brands usually want to be able to deal with it immediately. I have known a case where the company spent a lot of time hoping to figure out the most appropriate response to a so-called “crisis.” But the relevant discussions have been diluted during the time. Yet, after thoughtful consideration, the managing party insisted on responding to the crisis. Unfortunately, it brought back the whole discussion to the center of the stage. Thus, whether to deal with the problem instantly, that’s difficult to answer. It can only be implemented based on experience. I always make sure that before holding an official press release, there must be a thoughtful discussion with the PR team. The most important reminder given to the PR team is to never use the script of the official press release on social media. Such official tones are very unpopular to these platforms.
Keypoints in Managing a Crisis
There are still many key points in managing a crisis. Here’s a list of some of them:
- Implementation of Crisis Management
- Social Listening
- Post-Crisis Review work
- Formulation of next processes
Next processes include:
- Follow-up and media response on the situation
- Internal communication within the company
- Methods of long-term crisis management
- Definitions of different levels of crisis response
- Composition of the crisis team – external working groups that can be contacted when the crisis occurs.
All of the above needs to be arranged in advance. Never wait until the crisis happens before you start moving. I’ve once heard of a brand hiring a PR agency from Mainland China to deal with the crisis. It turns out to be a tragedy. The PR agency provided a response that is full of Chinese characteristics. This undoubtedly fuels the crisis. It tells that a brand should be very careful when choosing a PR agency for crisis management. A safe practice is to choose a relevant PR agency. Make thorough communications way before any crisis occurs. Only when there are sound preparations will one be able to cope with any sudden crisis.