I think by now we can all agree that this pandemic is a crisis that will change the global landscape. In short, things will never be the same again (remember that Melanie C song?)
Crisis mode, however, is where we either fail or come out triumphant. There is no grey area here. Especially if this will take a while.
And since all of us are in this together, and since I strongly believe in the importance of the PR role in crisis management, there are a few steps that any company – or any entity for that matter- can take in order to contain the crisis at hand:
PR vs Legal: Ok we are officially in crisis mode. Who do we run to? The misconception here is that we must consult our legal department before saying or doing anything. The problem with this issue is that the public will automatically believe that you are hiding something. Thus, whatever steps you take afterwards will either backfire or won’t produce the desired results.
Whenever God forbid crisis strikes, your PR people are your first line of defence. Consult them first and depending on the situation at hand, they will explain what to do and which steps to take.
Professional PR practitioners always have a crisis/contingency strategy in place that is reviewed and updated annually along with the regular business annual strategy. This immensely helps as you no longer have to run around like a headless chicken.
Holding Statements: Usually the first step that any entity takes is publishing or announcing a holding statement. A holding statement is a statement that is short and sweet, and definitely straight to the point. It addresses the crisis, it explains that the entity is fully aware of it, and it explains what the entity is doing in order to resolve the issue or contain it.
Social Media and Thirst for Information: Social media is an inevitable part of our lives. And we get most, if not all, of the news and information from social media platforms. Social media has made accessibility to information so quick and so easy. This means that the spread of rumors is easy. And means that your audience will be craving information faster than you can shawerma extra toum.
Therefore, you have to make sure that YOU are their accurate source of information. Answer their questions on social media right away. Post updates and news on the situation as much as you can. Hold press conferences, media briefings, live Q&A sessions on social media platforms as frequently as you can. Your audience wants to feel that they are close to you, that you and your entity are listening to them and that you are all in this together.
Of course, the style and tone of voice here is of utmost importance.
Clarity and Honesty: People are smart. They can see directly through you. Therefore, spinning, twisting the truth, beating around the bush, withholding information, refusing to answer press queries, ignoring people’s comments and questions on your social media accounts are a NO-NO! Be honest, be genuine, be transparent.
One more thing: It’s OK not to have all the answers. Nobody likes a person who pretends to have all the answers. What people need in times of crisis is someone who has the courage, optimism, hope, and full focus to lead them through the storm until they reach the other end safely with the minimum amount of damage possible.