Expert advice on the business of running a garment decoration company

Q&A

Like most people, I read about United Airlines removing a passenger from a flight in April and was a bit taken aback at how it was handled and the subsequent bad PR. It made me think about what we would do if something went wrong – can our company prepare in advance for potential crises such as these, and if so how?

Although you can never predict what is around the corner you should always be

prepared for media crisis and have a plan in place. Having a set, known procedure can help you act quickly and effectively without rushing in a high pressure situation. It is essential to have a solid but adaptable plan which you can action quickly and effectively.

Firstly, identify the individuals who would be the most suitable spokespeople for different situations. The more serious the issue, the more senior the spokesperson. Ensure the chosen spokespeople are aware of their responsibilities and the agreed procedure so there is no confusion when the time comes. Create a list of topics internally that are completely off limits and phrases that should be avoided. If necessary, think of the legal ramifications of any potential crisis situation and bring in legal counsel as part of your preparations.

Your crisis communication plan should also cover social media as well as any other platform where your company can be seen to express opinions publicly. The people in charge of social media should be kept up to date with the latest statements as well as being briefed about off limit topics. You should also have a social media policy in place as part of your contract of employment with your staff that sets clear boundaries on what is expected of them on their personal social media feeds.

Don’t forget that every member of staff, of every level, is a representative of your company, which is why you shouldn’t forget about internal communications. Ensure your staff members feel like they are being kept in the loop without leaking vital information.

Putting yourselves in the shoes of a journalist can really help. Think about the type of story that they want to write. Take some time to look closely at your company and be honest about where there are weaknesses or elements of controversy. Try to identify which areas of the business that a journalist might pick up on and ensure you have prepared answers to potentially difficult questions or explanations for complicated and technical concepts.

Another way to help you be prepared is keeping on top of industry news. It’s essential to keep on top of what are the ‘hot topics’ and what journalists want to talk about and discuss. If rival companies are being questioned publicly about certain issues then it is possible that your company might be asked to comment or might be scrutinised about the same thing.

You can never be completely prepared for a media crisis, but having a plan in place can help you react quickly and stop the crisis from growing. When it comes to the crunch, remember to keep calm. The plan is there as a guide and to give you more time so you have a chance to think about the bigger picture and ensure that you are putting the right message out there – and most importantly dealing with the crisis responsibly and effectively.

When a crisis happens never say ‘no comment’. Keeping an open dialogue, even if that is simply to say you are looking into a matter and will report back with facts and proposed actions in due course, is vital. Finally, there is never any information that can be given ‘off the record’ in a crisis. Transparency, diligence and factual correctness are all important.

Jacki Vause is CEO at Dimoso, a PR and marketing agency specialising in mobile technology.
www.dimoso.com

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