It’s the oldest story in the book: A company releases an offensive ad or experiences a public relations catastrophe, and then it’s up to crisis management to put the pieces back together before the company becomes another cautionary tale.
Recently, Pepsi and United Airlines came under fire for mistakes that received worldwide attention and criticism. Pepsi’s tasteless commercial starring Kendall Jenner sparked public outrage for its tone-deaf approach to recent protests, causing the brand to pull the ad shortly after its release. The same month that Pepsi pulled its advertisement, a United Airlines flight attendant wrongly removed a passenger with unnecessary force after he needed to make an urgent trip to the restroom.
PR crises come in many forms and on many scales. So how do you save face in light of a mishap, tragedy, or crisis that directly affects your brand? While there’s no single answer for every occasion, content can play a vital role in the recovery process in today’s crisis management efforts.
In the past, handling a company crisis meant holding press conferences, sending a statement to local news stations, and distributing press releases to as many people as you could. Today, in a world that communicates primarily online, it’s more important than ever to tap into your social channels and ramp up your content to issue a proper and effective apology, connect with audiences on a human level, and regain control over the conversations involving your brand.
Here are the five things your content needs to be if you want to help your company get back on track in times of crisis:
It’s hard, but owning up to a scandal or wrongdoing is the first, and most important, step. If you’ve already made it a point to practice transparency in your content, this should be pretty easy to follow.
There’s a chance that your account of the situation will not be the only one your audience receives. That’s the downside to being so connected: Word travels fast, and your audience’s connections, followers, and networks may have already begun this conversation for you. All you can do is be honest, keep your account accurate, and shut down any rumors that may have started through the grapevine.
Don’t change just because you’re under a microscope. People may care more about what you have to say now than before the crisis, but that doesn’t mean you need to stray from your roots or change your core values.
People can tell when you’re not being genuine in your response. Being authentic in content can help you connect with your audience in a crisis because it makes room for vulnerability, which is humanizing.
Using content to engage your audience in a timely manner after public backlash is extremely important. You want positive content coming from your company almost immediately after a scandal breaks to help manage your reputation.
Additionally, you want to take advantage of all your social media channels to respond to public concerns and be present in the conversation. There’s a sense of cowardice associated with a delayed response, and the last thing you want your audience to think is that your brand can’t weather the storm.
This is important to remember in every piece of content you create, regardless of its use in your crisis management. If your content isn’t easily shareable or actively distributed where your audience will find and consume it, then it’s not going to do a lot for your content marketing strategy or your PR management — but it’s especially important when you issue a press release or other content to quell a crisis.
Content distribution doesn’t have to be hard, either! There are plenty of distribution tools and platforms that can help make the process much simpler while maximizing your reach.
High-quality content isn’t limited to a blog post or press release; your content can range in format from articles and infographics to videos and podcasts. You should be responsive on multiple platforms and channels, and certain types of content perform better on different channels; take advantage of every opportunity to extend your message and increase your reach.
Social media and content marketing go hand in hand, especially during crisis management, and when it comes to social media, it’s important to keep it a two-way street. Your company needs excellent communicators behind the screens to respond quickly and effectively to frustrated and angry tweeters, commenters, and more.
No matter the magnitude of controversy your brand may face, it’s important to be prepared and remain in control of the message in the days, weeks, or months to come. While there’s no one right way to go about crisis management, having a detailed plan in place will make the restoration period go much smoother.
I'm an avid storyteller and a right-brained thinker who loves to make people laugh by acting out strange, hypothetical scenarios and writing funny sketches. Amy Poehler is my idol, and I have the same thumbs as Megan Fox.