In The Day of the Jackal, a 1973 film about an assassination attempt on French president Charles de Gaulle, the phrase “Crisis? What crisis?” was coined and subsequently referenced by numerous media and artists in later years.
In context it alludes to an indifference when something goes wrong and delay in taking action. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska is a classic PR case study of what not to do in a crisis, as the company’s chairman Lawrence G. Rawl sent a succession of junior executives to deal with the spill instead of going himself, taking control of the situation and accepting responsibility.
Crisis can occur in many formats, from a major blunder from a multinational company (think more recently Rio Tinto blowing up a significant cultural site at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia) through to something as simple as getting a customer’s order wrong.
What matters is how you deal with it.
For the smaller stuff, responding quickly and offering a make good can help turn a bad customer experience into a good one, but what about if there’s media interest in the matter?
Negative media can hurt a business, just look at what happened to Lorna Jane when it promoted its LJ Shield Activewear could protected wearers against viruses including COVID-19 – a $5 million fine from the ACCC and a tarnished reputation.
Here’s our top tips on how to handle the media if you or your business ever finds itself on the wrong side of the camera:
- Alert your staff and those who need to know – journalists are trained to get information, so if your front desk doesn’t know what’s going on they may let something slip.
- Appoint an authorised spokesperson – this will ensure consistent messaging and a single point of contact. The worst thing you can do is send contradictory messages to the media.
- Draft a general media response – a holding statement is fine for the time being while you establish what’s happened, but you’ll need to provide more information once it’s come to light.
- Be empathetic – anything that involves people (and animals) requires a response that provides a level of compassion.
- Monitor all communication channels – social media is one area that can get out of control quickly, especially if someone on your team is commenting on the issue through their personal accounts.
- Seek professional help – that’s someone like us or one of the many credentialed PR firms that deal with this type of thing on a regular basis.
As Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently”, and as someone who’s amassed a US$100 billion personal fortune, he’s worth listening to.
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