The public relations department is wholly responsible for establishing and maintaining the company’s reputation and ensuring that they swiftly and tactfully deal with crisis situations if or when they occur.
Whether the crisis is completely unexpected and happens out of the blue, or whether it’s a crisis that the company knew about beforehand but were hoping would never come to light, it’s about what the company’s PR department writes in its damage control press release which will ultimately decide the fate of the company’s future with its customers.
The press release is the main tool in any PR department’s damage control management kit that can be used for the sole purpose of completely turning a company’s hellish scenario on its head. This is all well and good for big companies that have the money to afford a good PR department, but what about smaller companies? Some may employ the help of a PR company on a consultation basis, but if that is also an unaffordable option then they may have to write one themselves.
So, how do companies write an effective damage control press release? Here are some guidelines on what it should include.
1 – State the facts and speak the truth
The press release needs to provide the public and press with the key facts about the crisis, in response to what may already exist in the press or is about to be released. Denials and fabrications of the truth should be avoided at all costs as this could have serious implications. Be careful if there is the possibility of a potential lawsuit as a result of the crisis, or even just because this could irrevocably damage the company’s reputation if the truth comes to light at a later date.
2 – Take responsibility
Whatever the situation, if the company is responsible for what happened then it is essential that they take responsibility for their actions. Even if the crisis is a result of the actions of one individual employee, the company should still shoulder the responsibility so that the public does not think that the company is simply scapegoating or shrugging off the problem in order to keep the brand image squeaky clean.
Not shouldering the responsibility is more likely going to weaken the public’s opinion of the company further.
3 – Express concern and take action
The type of language used is of extreme importance. The company needs to express empathy and concern at just the right level so that their customers, the public, and the press understand that the company is apologetic and concerned about their customers rather than just about the negative impact the crisis is having on their business.
The company needs to explain what appropriate action they are taking in order to bring the crisis to a satisfactory conclusion. If the crisis is one that has resulted in health and safety concerns or has an environmental impact, then the public needs to be reassured of their immediate and future safety. Depending on the nature of the crisis, the company should also mention any compensatory measures that they are taking or have in place.
At the end of the damage controlling press release, the company should include positive details about their business in order to remind their loyal customers why they choose to do business with them. The company should also include details about what they have learned from this bad experience and the future proofing steps they are taking or have already put in place to ensure a crisis of that nature never happens again.