How To Survive A Scandal

24th March 2016

With the recent scandals hitting the headlines - Maria Sharapova, the VW emissions debacle, there are many more - the question is, “are you prepared to handle a PR disaster?” Do you have a plan set out for when things go astray? You should. Crisis management should be one of the first things set out once you’re big enough to attract that kind of media attention.

Below are some of the worst handled business blunders to clarify what not to do when your business causes a disaster.

Rise from the Ashes

Keys to Success

These are the most important things to do when handling any crisis situation.

  1. Speed - You should feel the need for it. The rapidity of response (or lack thereof) is one of the prime factors in how the public respond. What helps with speed is having a plan already in place so that your reaction to an event is as quick as possible.

  2. Accept Responsibility - Always apologize and ensure it is done by the Director or CEO as there is nothing worse than Dave from PR making a statement. It needs to be a sincere apology along with the steps being taken to confront the situation.

  3. Transparency - Updates and progress reports should be given as often as possible, especially when important information has been uncovered. Maybe not to the extent of BP and their helpline though. Definitely don’t act like Malaysia Airlines did when they notified relatives of those on the Flight MH370 via text message, saying that they should assume “beyond doubt” no one had survived. Relatives were understandably outraged by this.

  4. Reputation - Have a great one. The better the company’s reputation before a crisis, the easier it will be for the public to forgive and forget any errors that have been made (providing your company has reacted well initially). This was the key for Toyota and probably what VW are hoping for when the Emissions scandal calms down. However, this will take a huge amount of engagement and investment to achieve.

PR is tricky. It takes forever to build up a good public image but it can all be gone in an instant. By learning from the successes and failures of others and following these simple-to-learn but hard-to-master steps, hopefully you can avoid doing anything as invasive as U2’s iTunes scandal.