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Prevention is Key! How to Avoid a PR Crisis

June 9th, 2017

In a previous blog post, we discussed how to properly manage a PR crisis amid company controversy and backlash from the public. Since then, a handful of brands and spokespeople have joined United Airlines and Pepsi in the hot seat.

Mr. Met, the famous mascot for the New York Mets, recently flipped the bird to fans which, of course, was captured on video and instantly went viral on social media. As if that wasn’t offensive enough (aside from the team’s performance on the field the last month or so), Kathy Griffin shocked everyone when she posed for a photo holding a disturbing prop – a mock-up of President Trump’s head.

Needless to say, the Mets organization and Griffin have been in damage control mode.

Perhaps it’s time for everyone – celebrities, spokespeople, companies, and organizations – to start thinking about their decisions before they offend the public and risk ruining their reputations.

Those who are in the spotlight should be held to a higher ethical standard and need to be accountable for their actions. Here are a few best practices every business and brand should follow to prevent a PR crisis from happening:

Establish a Code of Conduct

The first step is to establish a code of conduct which outlines the responsibilities, proper practices, and expectations of an individual, company or organization. When it comes to a code of conduct, there should be no grey areas. Rules and regulations must be clearly explained and agreed upon to ensure that everyone is in accordance with ethical standards to protect a brand’s reputation.

To effectively manage stressful situations with customers or to appropriately respond to uncomfortable questions from the media, employees and brand representatives should undergo proper training.

“Companies should truly have customer-friendly policies, not just say they do. After all, the reputational loss, and real monetary costs, arising from the disaster can be monumental. By treating customers well, companies would have reputational gains, not losses. That is the true underlying corporate culture shift which many companies need,” said Fred Pack, Vice President of Finance at TripHero.

Be Proactive

Unfortunately, it only takes one person to ruin the reputation of an entire brand. As trust takes a long time to earn and mere seconds to destroy, companies must be proactive and constantly think ten steps ahead.

Strategic planning and evaluations can mitigate PR disasters. Risk assessments can be performed to measure the potential impact of a marketing campaign, endorsement, or new partnership before it is even launched.

Additionally, every company should have a trustworthy team in place – from board members to a PR firm – to run decisions by before they are put into action. Working with partners and staff who are wholeheartedly invested in your brand and business is monumental to success.

Prevention is Key

Overall, the best way to survive a PR crisis is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

By following a code of conduct and having a crisis management plan in place, companies can be proactive and potentially avoid future faux pas.  At the minimum, they can mitigate the impact of a crisis before it escalates into a United Airlines or Pepsi snafu.

As always, social decency and respect for other cultures, religions, genders, and political ideologies is fundamental – whether you are the face of a multimillion-dollar brand or an intern embarking on your first assignment.

Caroline Vallila

Caroline is responsible for public relations, social media, content marketing and account management at Springboard. In her spare time, she enjoys attending concerts, Giants football games and taking long walks on the beach.

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