While timely action can prevent the worst consequences of a PR crisis, there are certain actions that an organization can take that will make the crisis worse. The worst things that an organization can do that will make a PR crisis worse are:
Since the point of managing a PR crisis comes down to managing public perception, lying about the crisis or about the involved parties can make the situation worse. Because of social media, the perception the public has of an organization will stay in the public’s memory for a long time. Lying during a crisis will paint the organization in a bad light.
While disappearing from the public eye used to be a good strategy a few decades ago, it is an impossibility now. When the representatives of an organization disappear without addressing a crisis, it does not bode well for the reputation of the organization. It is crucial for the leaders of the organization to step up and face the crisis head-on, instead of hiding without doing much about it.
Credibility is important—not just during a crisis, but during less tumultuous times as well. When an organization plays the blame game, or deflects responsibility for the crisis, it loses its credibility. The representatives of an organization should refrain from issuing denials or shifting blame before they have all the relevant facts with them.
Minimizing the crisis
Being dismissive is a less-than-stellar quality—and something an organization should refrain from at all costs when they are facing a crisis. It might be tempting for the leader or the communications head to issue a statement regarding their ignorance. But such a statement can cause more harm than good for the reputation of the organization.
Trivializing the crisis
Any representative of the organization should refrain from making jokes or inappropriate remarks about the crisis. Instead of seeming light-hearted, it can often come across as malicious, disrespectful, or convey a lack of seriousness regarding the crisis.
Issuing general platitudes instead of a true holding statement can prove to be detrimental for an organization. Statements such as “We are working on the issue” or “We are taking the matter seriously” are considered to be generic and convey no real information. Issuing platitudes can often backfire since it does not add anything significant to the narrative.
Bringing focus back to the issue
While the organization should take responsibility for the issue, repeatedly bringing up the crisis can have the opposite effect. It does not convey that the parties are taking responsibility – and it keeps the perception of the public on the crisis. One of the tenets of crisis management is focusing on the positive and remaining proactive. Prioritizing negative aspects can prove detrimental to crisis management.
When a crisis strikes, it brings panic with it. The shareholders, board members, and employees may experience anxiety and want explanations. The teams in charge of managing the crisis, such as the legal counsel or the communications team, may have ideas or inputs that they might want to convey. But in a crisis, time is of the essence – and it cannot be wasted.
Using the limited time available to hold internal meetings or reassuring the members of the organization can make the crisis worse. The efficient management of time can help an organization deal with the aftermath of a crisis.