January 2, 2015
How you can use these recent PR crises to your company’s advantage
In the last couple of months, there have been numerous high-profile crises all over the news. An unexpected crisis can happen to any company at any time. How you handle it can either make or break the reputation you’ve worked so hard to build.
Consumers choose your brand based on their perceptions of your company. Get familiar with these case study stories to minimize the chances of your company and its good name being ruined in the event of a major (or minor) calamity.
First, cyber attackers hit Sony and released to the public confidential information and embarrassing internal emails. In the wake of addressing the content of the emails, the attackers hit the company yet again. The attackers made statements threatening harm for any theater that showed the new comedy spoof film The Interview, aimed at North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un.
Sony decided to cancel the Christmas release of the movie, citing a concern for audience safety. Then executives changed their minds to allow some theaters to show it. As a result, the media swiftly and roundly blasted Sony for its decisions, with critics complaining that it gave in to terrorists, leading to a damned-if-we-do, damned-if-we-don’t type of scenario.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and no one gets it right all the time. However, in a crisis, it’s important to be able to quickly assess the situation and make a decision that you can stick to. Also, a huge film company like Sony should have had a better crisis management plan in place to help direct its actions in such a situation. This may have helped to prevent the flip-flopping and consumer backlash.
As for the email debacle, it’s vital to remember one thing: If you don’t want to see it in print, don’t put it in an email. There’s always the possibility that the wrong people will see it. For sensitive information, it may be best to pick up the phone or walk down the hall to deliver the message personally.
The legendary comedian has built a solid reputation as a family man and role model. Recently, a slew of women have come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, spanning a period over 20 years. The Cosby camp took months to respond, and when they did, they offered only a weak denial of the charges. This crisis has tarnished his stellar image and several companies have cancelled his upcoming projects.
It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and only a minute to ruin it. This crisis represents a classic case for the importance of addressing a situation quickly. By refusing to respond for so long, Cosby is, in effect, letting everyone else write his story. As a celebrity, he is his brand and, as such, should do everything possible to protect it.
City of Ferguson
It seems the city of Ferguson, Missouri just can’t get it right when it comes to PR representation. First, it got rid of its original choice after criticism for not hiring a minority firm. Then, it fired the replacement after it was discovered that he was a convicted killer. Now, in the latest development, its current spokesperson has been placed on administrative leave for calling the Michael Brown memorial a “pile of trash in the middle of the street” after it was destroyed on Christmas day. This has the potential to spark even more anger in an already volatile situation.
This occurrence highlights the importance of a well-trained spokesperson. Anyone charged to speak on your company’s behalf must always be mindful of what’s at stake and not be caught off-guard when confronted by reporters.
At Axia, we’re ready to be your crisis management counselors. We will use our communications and writing expertise to help you get through any emergency and even prevent one from occurring in the first place. Download our e-book Managing Public Relations in a Crisis or give us a call today before a major crisis sidelines your company.
Lisa Goldsberry is a writer for Axia Public Relations with more than 15 years of public relations experience. She specializes in business, higher education and technology PR. Connect with Axia Public Relations on Twitter @axiapr.
Featured image credit: 123rf.com