A few weeks ago, the CEO of a Pharmaceutical company raised the price of Daraprim, a drug used to treat AIDS patients by 5000+% (from $13.50 to $750.00) A few tweets later and Martin Shrekli was the ‘most hated man in America’, a lot greed equals a public relations disaster!
There are very many instances in our personal lives, businesses and careers that require a PR personnel to “put the fire out” and when it is done right, it will be like the fire never happened, probably equivalent to an episode of Scandal with Olivia Pope handling the situation. I have a case study that we can use as an example;
Recently I was on Facebook reading a post written by a friend of mine, let’s call him John. John went to a club on Saturday night and was faced with discrimination when another guest in the club slapped him and call him names because of the colour of his skin (John is from India). John’s first reaction is to stay calm and report the matter to the club security; ironically he gets thrown out of the club because they would prefer to “keep the peace”. The club was mentioned in the Facebook post. It was notified of the post but the only message I got from the manager is that they try to keep the peace and hopefully my friend will give them another chance.
Imagine a situation where this post actually went viral; how do we control the situation and put the fire out? How do we… fixt it?
Do your research. Find out what exactly happened, putting out a fire means you have to know the FULL story! Who was in charge of the security that night? What happened? What are the implications of such a post to the business? Just because someone tried to bash the company does not necessarily mean that they were in the clear. A crisis means working fast but also, working smart.
Do your research, on the social media and available networks… has the story broken? What is the reaction from the public? Basing on the reaction and impact on the business, proceed to step 3.
Now that the full story, reaction and impact on the business are in full knowledge, it is time to BRAINSTORM solutions! What message are you going to pass to the public? Is it going to be an apology? What is the course of action? What reaction are you looking for from the public? An example from the case study, are they looking for public forgiveness? Or are they sticking to the defensive with their story and showing that they do not discriminate? Is it going to be reliance on POSITIVE customer reviews? Are these customers going to be from every part of the world? It goes back to the question; what is the reaction you are looking for?
Execute! Depending on the decision made, there are numerous options on where to relay the information. You must be very selective in this nature, choosing the most efficient and making sure it is going to the targeted audience (this goes back to research) you can post on your corporate blog, social media, press release, or even directly to the media, and even all the above. Always remember that there are repercussions to be considered with every decision; social media obviously requires a dialogue; a press release is more closed off; be sure to choose wisely. Going back to the case study, I would recommend a more social media approach as it is where the message was started and will hopefully be extinguished faster in the same sense.
Did you get the required reaction? Look at the message that was put out, did it build a bigger fire or was it considered controlled. Focus on every media outlet used and try to draw conclusions based on what you read out there. Once again in my Olivia Pope voice, “Has it been handled?”
If it has, learn from what you put out there. Every step is a learning experience and if you feel there were other options that could have handled it better, take note and keep that in mind for the future.
Grab that glass of wine, a beer, do the happy dance or whatever is you to do unwind and kick back because… another fire has been put out!
Public Relations is not just a job title, it’s a peace keeping job; one I believe is very vital to every company and organization. Growing up, my brothers always called me “Hot Sauce” because of the way that I would react when someone would make me mad; there was a lot of something close to an eruption performance, but through my teenage years, I became quite the opposite and now as a young adult, I found my soul mate career as a white flag bearer or to the world… A Public Relations Professional.
Gosh I love it!