Importance of proactive PR plan in case of crisis in business

Importance of proactive PR plan in case of crisis in business

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

When a business gets hit by a crisis, like Reagor-Dykes bankruptcy, the BP oil spill, Blue Bell's listeria outbreak, a plan of attack needs to be put in place to put the best spin on the situation, it's called crisis communications. It's a chance for businesses to save the brand, they built.

"Every business should anticipate they are going to be involved in a crisis of some sort," Jo Langston, a Texas Tech PR Professor, said.

According to Langston, there are seven crucial aspects to attack a crisis. First, have a plan. Then establish a spokesperson, be open, honest and trustworthy and talk to your employees first.

"They are an immense tool. They are ambassadors for your brand they're ambassadors for what is going on inside the business," Langston said. "You know when there's a crisis involving a business and you see your neighbor Sue that you know works for that company, you're going to go talk to Sue and you're going to believe what Sue says." 

Next, talk to customers and vendors, update the media and get information out on social media.

"The business that has a plan will be out on social media platforms, telling what's going on, this is the update how you can get whatever you need done. So social media has changed the way we respond to crisis. And if you're not on it, social media will be on it for you," she added.

Companies need to get the word out fast, before the public shapes the narrative.

"If you don't engage that have your interest at heart, that are sharing your stakeholders, if you don't have that, somebody else will make up the story; we're all reporters now," Langston said. "We can all pick up our phone and go to our Twitter feed, go to Facebook, go to Instagram, go to whatever and we can make up a story."

According to Langston, Blue Bell's listeria outbreak is the perfect example of how to handle a crisis.

"They were upfront, this is what's going on, this is what we're doing to fix the problem, we're going to go in and clean and re-clean and retrain and do all these things, this is the anticipated date you're going to have Blue Bell back in your stores and everyone came back to Blue Bell, so they did it perfectly."

The shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, an example of an institution, that wasn't prepared for a crisis. It took two hours to send out information and directions in a situation when lives were in danger.

"The company, the institution, needs to have a way for the questions to be answered. Cause if they're not answered, again they're going to create their own story. They're going to go and tell everybody, I can't get an answer to my question, and we have a tendency to tell twelve people when something goes bad, as opposed to three people when something goes good," Langston said.

How companies react, is an indicator for what's to happen the next time a crisis hits.

"They need to have answers, they need to be able to speak it, talk the talk, walk the walk, and they need to be that person of authority."

When brands, like BP, cause so much damage, the best plan is to re-brand and re-visit it's mission.

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