When faced with a PR crisis, the best strategy involves thinking the situation through and releasing a statement for damage control as soon as possible. It is understandable if the company wants to take its time framing the right message for the media and its consumers, but too much delay can be catastrophic.
There have been instances when companies have chosen to ignore the public backlash. That is PR suicide. You have to say something. It may not be a complete answer in itself, but some response is mandated as first aid after a crisis. Speaking too much or too little are equally hazardous.
When Silence Isn’t Worth a Thousand Words
Sony Entertainment faced a historically isolated event of a magnanimous data breach a few years ago that affected more than 77 million customers worldwide. At a time when customers needed reassurance, the company shut down its entire system without a word. Chaos ensued wherein customers were frantically trying to understand what was going on. There was understandable widespread outrage as customers found themselves locked out of their PS Network. People were worried about the safety of their credit card information and needed an explanation. The company issued a statement a week late, but by then the damage to their brand was already done.
Don’t be Passive
In the early hours of a scandal, the company can exercise control and direct the narrative its way by issuing a formal statement. You may not have all the answers for the public, but just coming forward and owning up to the problem is strong enough in its stead. It shows credibility that the people at the helm of the brand are actively working to address the issue at hand.
Domino’s faced a PR scandal in 2009 when a co-worker was filmed doing damaging things to food before it was delivered. The video went viral, and people were understandably concerned about the hygiene of the food the big pizza conglomerate was delivering. The President waited a full forty-eight hours before releasing an apologetic statement. While his response was right, it was delayed. Had the company responded immediately, the scale of the damage could have been more controlled.
You Can’t Silence Social Media
In case a complaint comes in, address it maturely and give the feedback. Trying to silence the complainant will only trigger a worse media backlash. There is no controlling content generation on social media. Any move against owning up to the problem and deflecting blame from the company being targeted only makes the situation worse.
PR issues should be responded to will efficacy and maturity. Quick response is the key to steering the narrative your way and controlling the scale of the problem. Don’t put your head in the sand and pretend the problem doesn’t exist. The storm will only be worse when you pull out your head.