By now the entire world has probably seen or heard about the Oscars altercation in which Will Smith slapped Chris Rock after Rock made a joke in poor taste about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. It was one of those jaw-dropping “did that really just happen?!” moments and I think many are still trying to process it. People have strong opinions on both sides but no matter which way you look at it, each is in the midst of a public relations disaster and no doubt has a team working behind the scenes to help them dig their way out.
As PR professionals, it is our goal to always promote our clients in the best light possible, but no matter which sector of the business you work in, dealing with negative press at some point is inevitable. The way in which you go about doing so will determine how much damage is done to the brand’s reputation. If handled smartly and swiftly, your client can emerge with minimal scarring. However, if the situation is botched, it can turn into a nightmare with lasting impact. Below are a few tips on how to make sure your client comes out on top in the face of a PR crisis:
Assess the Damage
Take some time to assess the situation and listen to what people are saying. Before you do or say anything, it’s important to read the room and react accordingly. Quick reactions without pause or reflection can do more damage than good, so taking the time to be thoughtful and purposeful is incredibly beneficial in these situations.
The first step in regaining people’s trust is to acknowledge the mistakes made and take accountability for them. People can be forgiving if they feel forgiveness is warranted and deserved, however, this must be genuine in order for people to buy in.
Develop a Plan and Craft the Right Message
As you’re deciding what to say, you must consider stakeholders and make sure to address the necessary people impacted by the incident. Transparency and authenticity are key. Decide exactly how to get the message out and who you are directing it to. These days things can go viral within seconds, and while this could be disastrous, it can also be extremely helpful when trying to reach a large audience quickly. Try to work with friendly media who will portray the message positively, but be prepared for anything.
Move On…Sort of
Once the situation has been handled and it’s time to move on, this will encourage others to do so also. Highlight new talking points that promote positive conversation around the brand and look to the future. That said, it is important to learn from the experience and make sure that any action moving forward reflects the necessary changes made as a result of the experience.
With a solid PR team, anything is possible!