Crisis PR in Scotland
Thursday, March 24th, 2016
Managing a crisis used to be much easier, but when everyone’s a journalist – you need to prepare.
Welcome to Part 3 of our Guide to being a Digital Guru. This guide should help you to understand the media and PR for business in the modern age. This part focuses on Crisis in a time of smartphones.
WHAT would a crisis look like in your business?
Might it be a devastating product recall because of danger to the public? The announcement of staff lay offs? An industrial tribunal seeing your dirty laundry being aired in public? How about a whistle-blower revealing less than lilywhite practices in your organisation? Or a major accident?
Maybe it would be a senior figure caught out making sexist, racist or similar ill-considered remarks. Ultimately it may be something as simple as the big boss admitting that what you do or make is “crap” (See jeweller Gerald Ratner’s fall from grace for that doozy).
Most of the time we associate these kind of damaging catastrophes with major businesses – the VW emissions cheating scandal; The BP Deep Water Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico; Nestle sparking outrage for endangering orangutans to harvest Palm Oil. The list goes on.
But if you own or manage a small or medium business, don’t for one minute think you are immune. In the age of instant updates, ubiquitous mobile phones and the rise of the ‘always on’ generation, bad news for your business can blow up at any time.
Take the humble Edinburgh chippie that just found itself at the centre of a social media furore. That’s right a local fish and chip restaurant. At the centre of a negative Tweet storm.
In this case the eatery got off relatively lightly – because the unfortunate story about the restaurant refusing to allow a disabled child to use its toilet caused a fuss online, it didn’t make it over into the mainstream media (newspapers, TV, radio and online news sites). This time.
Here’s the reality for businesses like yours: crisis communications is a major area within the communications industry and in business. Why? Because if you’re a brand, an organisation or a service providers chances are you spend a huge amounts of time, money and effort in building a reputation.
Yet as the old saying goes: “It can take 20 years to build a reputation – and just five minutes to ruin it.”
Public relations can’t usually help you avoid or prevent a crisis – but effective communications is crucial to make sure your business come out of the other side in the best possible shape. One of the most important ways to ensure that happens is to plan and prepare.
In times gone by, this was much easier to manage. If a crisis were to happen even ten years ago, you would have time to assess exactly what the crisis was, look into ways of managing it and then you’d handle it – make sure you had a statement prepared for the media and perhaps even had a plan of action to fix the solution and appease any disgruntled customers.
Today, you may get little or no such opportunity before a story swallows you. Take the fish and chip restaurant, which until its SNAFU, had impressive reviews on its Facebook and Trip Advisor pages.
However, when one angry dad posted to social media about his child being refused permission to use the toilet facilities, things changed – quickly. He called for others to share negative reviews … they did.
Before the fish and chip shop could even take a step back to manage the crisis, their reviews had dropped to one star and you couldn’t move on their social media pages for negative remarks – the reputation of the restaurant seemed irrevocably damaged. In fact, it got so bad that the restaurant owners pulled their social media pages down from the web.
All of which shows that any business can find itself in the eye of the storm for the most unexpected and surprising of reasons. Of course, there are many other forms of crisis and ways in which brands can be damaged, especially small businesses or medium sizes enterprises. So how do you make sure it isn’t you and the business you own or manage?
Do you have a plan for a crisis? Do you have a solid script for staff members to follow in case of negative reviews on social media? It’s important to manage these things – before they blow out of proportion and damage your business in a way that it’s difficult to come back from – and we’re experienced in this.
It isn’t impossible to plan for every eventuality, especially when you probably do what your business is best at rather than fire fighting with the media. That’s where we come in. Check out our essential tips below, to prepare for a crisis:
- Have a crisis plan in place – who is responsible in times of a crisis – who should be the main point of contact?
- Have a social media policy. There’s nothing worse than staff or former staff piling into you before you even get a chance to manage a crisis. Ensure you have a rock solid social media policy.
- Think twice before responding to trolls. It’s important to post a message where you can manage it – whether it be a link to the website with a holding statement or not.
- Never remove your social media pages. Regardless of any onslaught – it can be fixed. Removing your social media pages is taken as a sign of guilt from those the crisis concerns and a victory for the internet troll.
Of course, this is not a definitive list of everything you need for managing a crisis but it is important to keep on top of those basic facts of crisis communications, in any level of business.
Your business deserves to work with PR experts who won’t make a drama out of a crisis
Holyrood PR was recently named Scotland’s Most Outstanding Small PR agency – and we earned that title for good reason.
We love helping other businesses to tell their stories to the world – and a vital part of that is making sure your voices is heard in the right way and by the right people on those occasions when something goes wrong.
We’d be happy to discuss creating a crisis communications plan for your business. Like all of our PR services, the pricing is totally clear – in fact, we’re one of the most transparent agencies in the UK in terms of cost.
Simply phone us on 0131 561 2244 or fill in the simple form below and we’ll get straight back to you:
Private: Kenny Murray
Kenny Murray is part of the expert PR team at Holyrood Partnership, an award-winnning Scottish public relations agency, which offers media relations, social media, photography, video, crisis management and PR in Edinburgh.View Private:'s Profile
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