1. Avoid Defensiveness
2. Prepare for Action
3. Repair Relationships
Many companies welcome national and international attention. Not the case however, when the negative light of scandal, possible cover-up and botched congressional hearings are part of the story. Unfortunately, bad things can happen to companies that have mostly good reputations. When controversy hits, a positive reputation can turn sour quickly – even calling into question past good acts. A proactive stance to avert scandal is always what I advise. But, if you and your organization find yourselves in the thick of things, consider these best practices to start mending the gaps.
The 2016 presidential cycle proved denial won’t help you in the polls, and will likely hurt with your customers and other constituencies. Take the truth head on, and deal with it by avoiding defensiveness. Make sure you study any accusations for veracity. Where the facts are on your side, state them proudly. Hold people accountable when they are loose with the narrative. Clarify and seek to fix, when facts are misstated or misreported.
PREPARE FOR ACTION
Either find an opportunity to explain or accept an offer to clarify with thorough preparation. Sometimes this means bringing in an outside source who is objective and not part of the alleged controversy. Once you have solid advisers in place, prepare through practice. Never do media interviews or make other public statements without careful preparation. You don’t want to sound over-rehearsed, but you also should never wing it. We all know examples of both paths.
No matter where things land, many parties get burned during a company’s public relations nightmare. Be the bigger mindset by looking to repair relationships and even build new bridges. In our modern era of social media, traditional media and direct communication, your brand can find authentic ways to reach out to various audiences with multiple means of communication. Consistency is your guide, and preparation is your friend. Stay intentional, and communicate in customized and meaningful ways to each audience that needs to hear from you. Know that time will eventually become your assistant. For now, focus on boosting any positives that are synonymous with your brand, and make focused efforts toward healing.