One of the problems that most small business owners fear is a public relations nightmare. Sadly, this can happen to almost any business owner who is in the public eye in some way. You never know when a comment will go viral - and worse, when it will be misunderstood in some way. If you ever find yourself dealing with a PR disaster, you’ll want to try to implement these tips.
1. Don't Ignore the Situation
You cannot avoid bad situations. If something is harming your businesses or your reputation, you need to confront it. Even if it’s true and you’re ashamed, you can often overcome the problem by being open and honest and then working to fix the problem. If it’s not true, you will only look guilty if you don’t get ahead of the story.
2. Don't Think That Your Reputation Will Save You
Even if up until now you’ve had a spotless reputation, a particular type of PR situation can overshadow your reputation - even if it’s false. The only way to fix someone’s erroneous perception is to tackle it head on in the bright light of day.
3. Don't Wait until the Situation Has Exploded to Deal with It
If you already know something might come out to the public that you don’t want to, don’t wait. It’s not going to help anyone. Do what you can to mitigate any situation before it explodes. If you didn’t know about it and it’s false, you still don’t want to let it keep proliferating without a response from you.
4. Be Sincere and Honest
If you did do something that was not true or it was misleading in some way (even if you didn’t realize it consciously), once your public finds out it’s time to come clean. So many social media stars could have kept their careers if only they had responded appropriately to being outed for their misleading information.
5. Don't Avoid Communication with Affected Customers and Stakeholders
Remember that you have many stakeholders - from your partner, to your kids, to your employees, contractors, customers, and possibly investors depending on the type of business that you are running. Every one of them needs to have communication from you regarding the issue in the terms that they will understand best.
6. Document Everything
When something happens, if you document it, you can often avoid it happening again. Sometimes a breakdown in communication is responsible for the nightmare. Other times it’s trusting the wrong vendors. Whatever it is, if you go through what happened, you can identify the problems that got you here so that you can avoid them next time.
7. Plan for a Crisis
Take some time to consider the various issues that you can face in your line of work. Make a list of possibilities so that you can plan for any type of crisis that might happen. That way, you know what to do. Plus, by writing it down you will often avoid the problem to start with as you identify causes.
8. Don't Act in a Defensive Manner
If you’re experiencing a PR disaster right now, try not to behave defensively. If you’ve done nothing wrong, explain yourself with confidence. If you have made a mistake, admit it openly and honestly without being angry that you were discovered or that someone pointed it out.
If you really want to avoid dealing with PR disasters, the best way to do it is to create a plan for your public persona for answering questions in a way that your audience responds positively to, while always being honest. If something goes down, take the blame for your poor communication and try to do better next time.