Drama, drama, drama, more often than not the PR world is full of it! Whether its major corporations – yet another BBC sex scandal – something which turns your stomach – horsemeat anyone? – a mindless celebrity comment – Justin Beiber hopes Anne Frank “would have been a belieber” – or a sad and worrying event – the Costa Concordia sinks off the coast of Italy. When crisis hits, it’s a PR’s job to strategise and do their very best to turn your fate around.
Though a crisis can come in many shapes and sizes, the general course of events goes a little like this:
1. Something bad happens
2. Stories are shared and photos taken
3. Word spreads
4. Your reputation runs the risk of declining.
So if a PR’s everyday job is about positioning a company’s positive identity, reputation and brand values at the forefront of the public’s mind, crisis management is about making sure that all your hard work doesn’t go to waste. Correctly managing your crisis could make or break your business and that often makes the time spent responding one of the most stressful parts of your job.
Plus, you need to simultaneously think about what’s happening online and offline. Who are going to issue press releases to? Will you provide a spokesperson for TV/ radio interviews? How will you respond to online criticism? And how quickly can you do all of this before things escalate?
Ignoring a problem, hoping that it will go away or trying to cover it up is rarely an option, especially when a story has gone digital. Of course you also need to bear in mind the size and prominence of your business, as well as the popularity of any complaints being made.
When McDonald’s launched their #McDStories on Twitter last year, they clearly didn’t expect the backlash that would ensue. The idea was a simple one, inviting customers to share their favourite McDonald’s stories with each other online. In reality, it turned into one of the worst cases of ‘tweetjacking’ social media has ever experienced with people instead choosing to share their horror stories about the food, employees or restaurants. In just 4 days of launching the #hashtag, McDonald’s stock fell by 3% and Twitter Sentiment registered that 68% of the tweets using #McDStories were negative. Whilst tweets including #McDStories only accounted for 2% of McDonald’s total Twitter mentions during the day of its launch, unfortunately people tend to remember the negative more than the positive.