03 May 2017

The (3)411 on PR Crises

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Public Relations
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posted on behalf of Sarah Fuller.

There are a handful of PR pros who can’t wait to say goodbye to April, a month that has its fair share of PR crises (Pepsi, United, Press Secretary Sean Spicer), but United wins the endurance prize following the incident where a passenger was violently dragged off flight 3411 and United botched its response multiple times, kept themselves flailing about in the news day after day, and I assume, kept their PR agency chomping antacids into the wee hours of the morning.

This past week on Thursday, United took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post to issue the most appropriate apology to date and issue a ten-point plan to get their customer service back on track. Time will tell if CEO and recent recipient of PRWeek’s “Communicator of the Year,” Oscar Munoz award can turn things around again for the airline’s public perception.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of PR professionals have commented on the incident – and it is easy to armchair quarterback this one, but the bottom line with any PR crisis is to avoid it. With the preponderance of them recently, this sounds easier said than done, but it’s really not that difficult:

  1. Don’t make bad decisions. Bad decisions almost always lead to a PR problem or crisis. Treat people well, make safe, quality products and don’t break the law.
  2. Have your PR person in the room. Make them part of the management structure, at the very least, in an advisory role. They can see a PR crisis coming a mile away and can advise you on an alternative course of action.
  3. Listen to your PR person. They can save your reputation, as well as headaches, and often real dollars and cents. A good one will speak truth to power.
  4. Remember that the world is watching. It sees and shares EVERYTHING. In an INSTANT. And repeatedly.
  5. Repeat step 1. Really.

So while it’s best to avoid a PR crisis altogether, if you’re reading this too late and you are in a PR crisis now, give the Rinck team a call and we can help you out.