As soon as company leaders and managers hear the word crisis, they think the world is coming to an end. This is not necessarily the case. If you're facing a crisis as a company, that means you have most probably upset some people a lot. A crisis is not necessarily negative. It's all about your perspective. From a public relations perspective, here's what most senior executives don't realise about facing a crisis:
1. It means you're loved/respected
Yes, you heard me right. If you're facing a crisis, it means that your brand is held in a high esteem. if you have never invested in expensive research on your audience, to assess how they perceive your brand, then accept your crisis as free research. When the public is disappointed and upset to the point that they are willing to start an outcry on social media or whichever other means they choose, then it means your brand matters to them. People don't get upset about people or things that don't matter. When people expect more from you and you have disappointed them, then it means your brand is held in high esteem. They cared enough to let you know you have failed them, so they'll notice when you make things right and you can be sure they'll tell their friends. People don't remember the mistake as much when you respond appropriately.
2. Your response is an opportunity of a lifetime
With all eyes on you, you have an opportunity to turn this negative episode in the lifespan of the business into a positive episode, and turn millions in negative PR into positive PR for your company. This is where the saying 'there is no publicity like bad publicity' has some validity. Bad publicity gives you an opportunity to turn a negative incident into a positive one. If there is even a smidgen of validity to the complaints of your stakeholders, then acknowledge it and work at rectifying it. If not, you're only digging a deeper hole for yourself and you'll struggle to get out. These is a limited timespan where you can accept accountability. If an apology comes too late, it's a lost opportunity and anything that comes after that will lack character and will just appear like a desperate attempt to save face.
3. You're airing your dirty laundry
Your corporate culture and leadership dynamics is on display for the world during a crisis. In most companies this type of information is limited to the staff who work for the company who experience the culture and leadership daily. However, when a crisis hits, the world can come to know otherwise private details about who you are as a business. When that happens, you'll hope that you treated your employees well and that your company CEO is a principled individual, because the world will get to know your leader very well as he/she will be quoted in every article. The press will get down to basics, and speak to the people who know you best, your employees or former employees. At that point, you'll hope you treated them well enough and that they are loyal enough. The crisis will be the test to see whether you got the basics right. If you didn't get your basics right and you have a CEO that doesn't know when to bite his tongue and you still implement inhumane human resource policies, then at its best, this crisis will highlight areas where the business should be improved.
As a public relations professional I am used to being presented with problems daily. It is my job to look for the solutions when everyone else is still focussed on the problem. It is my job to listen to or see the perspective of the public who feel like they have been failed by my clients. It is my job to continue viewing them as my client's stakeholders, even when my client currently views the complainants as the opposition and go into defense mode. I take the objective stance, knowing that bad situations/days/circumstances do not have to end in bad relationships. Therefore, my advice to anyone facing a crisis out there is this; see the opportunity in the crisis and if you can't then hire someone who can.