A PR crisis can happen to any business, anytime, for any reason. Possible causes include product defects, customer complaints, social media blunders, and legal issues. However, experiencing a PR crisis isn’t the end of your business. If approached carefully, it could be an opportunity to communicate positive changes and turn things around for the better.
In this article, you will learn five ways to communicate positive changes during a PR crisis. These tips will help you restore trust and credibility among your stakeholders, prevent further damage to your brand image, and position your business for future success.
5 Best Crisis Management Strategies to Communicate Positive Changes
Here are some steps to manage reputation damage during a PR crisis in 2023:
- Respond to Feedback and Criticism
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In business management, silence is often taken as agreement. Not responding to negative events will only escalate PR crises and signal the admittance of wrongdoing. You should have a PR crisis management plan that states how you respond to feedback and criticism to ensure your language is consistent across all channels.
Start with acknowledging the feedback or criticism, restate your commitment to improving things, and thank them for these contributions. Adopting this approach shows that you are listening to your customers, learning, and trying to de-escalate the situation for the better.
For example, in 2018, KFC suffered a chicken shortage across stores in the UK. The brand took a creative approach to respond to criticism by apologizing, stating the cause of the challenge, and taking steps to fix it. They also created a humorous campaign that spelled “KFC” as “FCK” to show they had messed up. They also engaged with customers’ comments on Twitter who had expressed disappointment at missing their favorite meal. KFC’s approach shows how brands can use humor to respond to feedback and create a calm environment during a PR crisis.
- Detail Specific Actions You Will Take Now and in the Future
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When a crisis hits, your customers always expect two things from you, a sincere apology and actionable solutions. Providing a detailed breakdown of steps you will take to rectify the issues shows true accountability and proactiveness. It also shows that you are dedicated to fixing the problem, allowing those affected to have positive expectations.
For instance, when Slack suffered a system outage in 2022, it deployed a brilliant crisis management plan to mitigate the situation. The communication company first released an apology message and followed it up with regular updates on their steps to fix the problems and progress.
- Transparency and Honesty Always Win
Most businesses will try to spin the narrative, shift blame, and avoid important parts of the PR crisis. This approach is a recipe for disaster, as it displays dishonesty and will raise more suspicion. When a crisis hits, you should communicate the cause, take full responsibility, and apologize to the affected individuals. Don’t try to cover up information or destroy people’s reputations by launching personal attacks.
For example, in 2011, when a FedEx courier was captured on video throwing a delivery over the fence of someone’s house, the company didn’t deny the allegations. They also didn’t try to shift blame to the employee. FedEx took full responsibility and restated its values.
- Match Words with Action
You must take steps beyond the well-crafted press releases with an action plan. Once your initial press release is published, you should start building on the goodwill by launching actionable solutions within the organization and in the public.
A good example was when Starbucks faced a racial discrimination PR crisis in Philadelphia in 2018. Two black men were arrested for allegedly trespassing at one of its stores, sparking outrage and accusations in the media. Starbucks quickly responded by apologizing publicly and closing 8,000 stores for a day. They followed up with immediate racial bias training for its employees and crafting and implementing new policies to prevent future occurrences. This approach helped de-escalate the PR crisis and served as a learning moment for Starbucks.
- Be Empathetic and Compassionate
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Empathy is important in communicating positive changes during a PR crisis. It shows the affected individuals and the public that you understand their pain and are committed to improving things. Showing compassion starts by acknowledging the damage done without trying to point fingers. You should also contribute to helping the affected individuals and communities navigate the challenges that resulted in the PR crisis.
For example, in 2019, Zion Williamson, a star basketball player, was injured due to Nike’s shoe malfunctioning during a high-profile game. The issue resulted in public outrage, with customers questioning the durability and efficacy of Nike’s products. The popular shoe brand took full responsibility by apologizing, reassuring the public of its commitment to safety, sending a team to investigate the issue, and offering a lucrative endorsement deal.
Next Steps for PR Crisis Management
Effectively managing a PR crisis requires a well-structured plan that considers your unique business context and potential crisis scenarios. When crafting such a plan, considering professional input could ensure comprehensive coverage of potential issues and appropriate response strategies.