Every business should be aware of the public's perception of their brand. That perception or rather their public relations can be affected by everything from online reviews to news articles about your business. Even if your business doesn't directly deal with the public, public relations is still an essential tool in protecting your brand's reputation. Accidents will happen. Problems will surface. It's how you handle these accidents and problems that determine how well your business will weather a PR storm.
How does a PR disaster occur?
Incidents happen, but when you're a business, they often happen publicly and are usually completely out of your control. A good example is JetBlue’s 2007 Valentine's Day crisis. When a freak winter storm blew into the New York area, instead of cancelling flights and allowing passengers to leave like other airlines, JetBlue’s management, and communication inefficiencies led to passengers being trapped on the JFK Airport tarmac for 8 hours. This resulted in to angry customers, cancelled flights and an overloaded computer system crashing. Although the disaster started with a winter storm, it ended up affecting JetBlue’s reputation and tens of millions of dollars in damages.
How do you identify the gravity and scale of your PR disaster?
The first thing to do when dealing with a PR disaster is to classify it as a level one or level two disaster. This allows you to fully understand the crisis at hand to determine the best steps to fix the problem and how to mitigate any backlash.
What is a level one disaster?
A level one crisis is defined as a crisis that is happening now and will have little to no impact on the company, staff, and audiences in the future. Examples of this might be isolated incidents, assaults, other crimes on-site or with staff, disputes, and natural disasters.
One of the most famous incidents of a level one disaster and the proper reaction happened to the American Red Cross in 2011 when a staff member mixed up their personal Twitter account with Red Cross’ and tweeted about enjoying excessive amounts of alcohol consumption. Instead of ignoring it, the Red Cross got ahead of the bad press by jokingly tweeting they were sober and confiscating the employee's car keys. As a result, it humanized the Red Cross, gained positive publicity, and avoided any major backlash that could have affected their reputation.
What is a level two disaster?
A level two crisis is an ongoing or large-scale crisis that impacts a company, its people, its buildings, or sites, and the internal and external news the crisis might generate. General examples of this might be serious crimes or violence, active shooters, product recalls, destruction, or hate incidents. Tylenol experienced a level two crisis in1982 when seven people were poisoned after consuming their over-the-counter capsules. Johnson & Johnson immediately recalled 31 million bottles at the cost of $100 million. They took the short-term loss to protect lives and ensure the long-term good name of their product.
How can Phase 3 help your company handle crises?
Paul Lindsley, our VP of Public Relations, explains, "We have teams across our offices that are experts in certain industries. Given the level of the crisis, we quickly create response teams to assist clients with fact finding immediately after crisis, and the timing of responses. We help our clients with talking points to distribute internally, externally and determine together appropriate public response, media response and next steps." Phase 3 helps during crises by ensuring we protect the company's brand and reputation today, tomorrow, and years from now. Phase 3's PR strategists can help you get ahead of crises by identifying potential threats and best practices for responding to them or avoiding them together. If you have a PR crisis or want to avoid one, click here for more information or here to contact us.