The bigger you are, the harder you fall, and this rule extends to the corporate world. Samsung has been waging a fierce PR battle to save face surrounding constant coverage of its spontaneously combusting Galaxy 7 smartphone, and this week the company finally decided to cease all production and shipment of the device.
No one is perfect, but the latest incidences of emergency airplane landings due to overheated, smoking electronics that had previously been powered down are pretty bad. The truth is that no matter how long it takes for a brand to build credibility, it can all be go up in smoke within seconds. But a good PR team is always prepared for the unexpected with a reliable crisis management strategy, and if you’re lucky, sometimes you can spin a disaster into a break.
- Be Honest. One of the key ingredients and a healthy approach to responding to a crisis is…wait for it…transparency and honesty. Shocker! Connect with all of your customer facing employees (other PR team members, social media team, sales reps, etc.) to brief them on what’s happening as well as how your brand is going to move forward. Provide a manual or training guide on how to communicate responses externally.
- Watch the Bottom Line. In Samsung’s case, the crisis had a major impact on its brand reputation and a parallel impact to its profit. Crises affect your business bottom line, period. As you develop key messages and your overall corporate communications strategy to address the crisis, you’ll want to play out the process in your mind and determine how your decisions will impact business, revenue and sales. For example, Samsung decided to permanently end production of its Galaxy 7 phone. Sure, it is the company’s flagship device and a major rival to the iPhone but Samsung spokespeople stated customer safety remains their top priority.
- Be Consistent. Now that you have a thorough understanding of the impact a crisis can have from all angles on your company, you should have a clearer idea of how to position your corporate stance accordingly. Begin drafting your messaging and ensure you get buy-in from the executive team leaders. Be prepared for a bit of back and forth with key decision makers (naturally), but rest assured, your research in understanding the business impact will help ensure alignment during this process. Ensure you are aligned with your PR team; this is especially necessary to prevent inconsistencies from arising. Imagine if your corporate response damaged your reputation even more. All public outreach should remain honest and focused on addressing the crisis.
- Monitor. Once you’ve determined the channel of distribution and delivered the message, monitoring the responses is equally critical when putting out the fires. The one main question you should ask your public-facing employees is “Is our PR crisis still a crisis?” Know that this type of fire doesn’t diminish over night; sometimes it can take a business months before their employees wind down on customer responses
- Learn from Mistakes. Mitigating the negative connotations of your brand is only one aspect of a PR crisis strategy. You’ll need to take a deep-dive and reflect into any events that caused this crisis to occur. By considering how certain events affected your organization, you will be better prepared to have an appropriate and timely response should another conflict arise. Develop a standard protocol or training guide to better help employees efficiently manage a future crisis.
If you’re still absolutely clueless, it’s time to bring in consultants that can help manage your reputation while focusing on developing a strong messaging strategy to reduce the risk of your brand’s downfall.