You wake up one morning with a thousand angry tweets directed at your business overnight. A dozen media inquiries sit in your inbox asking about something you hadn’t even realized was an issue. There’s a slew of vicious blogs written about how terrible your brand in general and you in particular are. Are you ready to respond?
Unexpected PR crises surprise companies of all shapes and sizes every year. Those that aren’t prepared for them often face dire consequences, up to and including going out of business entirely. The absolute best way to avoid that fate is to have an in-house communications genius in charge of your Public Relations and Marcomm.
Why You Need Your Own Internal Communications Veteran Leading Your PR
At a time when messaging can easily be taken out of your hands and a narrative can spread like wildfire through social channels, it’s never been more important to have a plan in place to manage a communications crisis. Even things that you find to be unimportant can be misinterpreted or blown out of proportion by others. The way you respond means the difference between a tarnished brand reputation and getting through the crisis smoothly.
In order to safely navigate these emergencies, it’s important to have someone available in-house to take the lead. There’s nothing inherently wrong with working with an external PR agency partner. In fact, those relationships can be extremely valuable for getting visibility for certain key initiatives and campaigns. But even the best PR agencies tend to be poorly equipped to handle the brand emergencies of today.
When problems can crop up overnight and they require a very sensitive, customized approach, PR agencies are usually just too slow and too far removed from the heart of your business to be effective at putting out fires.
In an ideal situation, of course, you’ll avoid future PR problems altogether. But it’s dangerous to assume that you’ll always be able to fly under the radar. In fact, the more aggressive your marketing is, the greater the chances of something backfiring on you. Don’t wait until a problem crops up and YOU find yourself in a situation where you’re scrambling to find the right person to handle this kind of crisis. Here’s why you need to execute your public relations executive search sooner than later.
Staying Out of Hot Water
Like most business problems, it’s usually most effective to avoid a PR crisis altogether.
In today’s sensitive online environment, your brand is only as strong as its weakest link. A good public relations executive search will find your organization someone who relentlessly searches for vulnerabilities and tightens them up. That will help you avoid obvious pitfalls and tie up the loose ends that are most likely get you in trouble.
There are many potential ways your organization can make a mistake and draw negative attention. Products that fall short of consumer expectations, tenuous relations with your employees, or a marketing message that’s politically or factually incorrect and more could all come back to bite you. A clever communications expert will also ensure that your organization is perpetually pushing out positive messaging and gathering favorable testimonials to proactively counteract the inevitable bad press.
Scaling Up for Big Problems
The potential for a brand gaffe to blow up online is nearly constant these days. A disgruntled customer can smear you on Twitter, a key executive could get caught saying something stupid on record, a defective product might go viral on YouTube.
These kinds of challenges are the weekly reality of many larger organizations today. But fortunately, they’re usually on a pretty small scale and can be managed with good public and media relations policies.
However, sometimes an emergency is so big that you just don’t have enough internal capacity to handle it right then. Imagine, for instance, that your wildly-distributed product started exploding or giving people listeria. That’s the kind of brand-killing problem most companies just don’t expect and aren’t ready to handle.
If the worst happens, you’ll probably need more hands on deck than your current communications teams are prepared to handle. An experienced PR executive will be able to manage the onboarding of various resources, whether pulling from other internal teams or getting external help from communications and public relations staffing, consultants, and agencies.
Knowing When to Shut Up
Sometimes the best strategy is to just stay quiet and let things blow over. Especially if something had been blown out of proportion, or if the “problem” has largely been fabricated by internet trolls.
Addressing an issue brings attention to it and gives it credibility. The Streisand effect has plagued many individuals and brands online over the years. Here’s a recent example from the NFL. Too many brands decide to make a mountain out of a molehill, only bring more misery upon themselves. Instead, they could have just waited out the crisis and let people move on to the next outrage.
However, staying silent on an issue is a big risk. If your organization is perceived as unresponsive on a topic the public and your customers deem important, it will just make things worse.
When should you stay silent, and when should you aggressively respond with your PR staffing? There’s no magical one-size-fits-all formula; you need the insight and guidance of an expert from a PR executive search to know what’s best for the situation.