PR 2.0 Tips for Damage Control

On April 14th, the #PRStudChat community was faced with its first small crisis. Valerie Simon and I had planned another dynamic chat session that would focus on our graduating PR seniors, jobs and the hiring process.  Everyone was gathered and ready; our PR pros, students, educators were present and our special guests were just introduced.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get very far into the chat as we immediately realized that Twitter was down.   Valerie and I had to assess the situation, respond quickly to the community and then continue with our damage control.

Granted, our crisis situation was not a major catastrophe, but at the same time we had to act quickly.  We didn’t want to waste anyone’s time and we also wanted a quick solution, so our members, who were looking forward to this session, wouldn’t be disappointed.  With respect to our special guests, we had lined up very busy PR and recruiting professionals, who gracefully accepted the invitation to participate on our chat panel. We realized that rescheduling the session might be difficult to coordinate with their demanding schedules.

Valerie and I worked with our community so everyone understood the situation, and then coordinated with the experts to secure our plan to move forward with a rescheduled #PRStudchat date of 4/21 at noon.  When I think back, I realize that the steps we used may aid in other unexpected situations.

Here are the quick steps or tips to help get a situation under control and back on track:

  • Listen and assess what’s happening quickly; don’t sit back for too long, especially if your community is asking, “what’s going on?”  Have a spokesperson who can communicate the facts and let people know that you are aware and managing the situation.  If you don’t respond, frustration can surmount and lead to increased confusion and anxiety.
  • Let people know that you have a plan or next steps are in place that will be shared with them shortly.  Make sure you deliver on the plan or next steps as soon as possible.
  • Direct people to a place where they can find updated news regarding the situation and accurate information.  Many companies prepare for crisis by setting up a crisis site or “dark” website.  Dark sites are pre-developed and non-public sites that go live when a company moves into damage control mode.  When live, these sites are updated regularly and provide news, company information and procedures to rectify the situation at hand, so people don’t have to speculate.
  • Answer questions as they arise and offer facts and accurate information.  If you can answer questions and be responsive, you will calm the nerves of the people involved, it will make the situation more manageable.
  • Keep listening and monitor the conversations even after the crisis is over.  People may continue to talk and share their thoughts, comments and even ask questions regarding what’s happened after incident has passed.  Your job is to keep monitoring the conversations and answer those questions.  You want too make sure that no misinformation is present in the dialogue and that the situation is, in fact, back on track.

Of course, we were very fortunate that the #PRStudChat community is one of the best communities, with extremely forgiving and super supportive members.  Not every crisis situation has a community with this level of understanding.  But, if you can keep these helpful hints in mind it just may ease the situation as you work through your damage control efforts.

What other steps or tips for damage control would you recommend when an unexpected situation occurs?