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How To Manage A PR Crisis

LAS VEGAS — In today’s world of 24-hour news cycles and “fake” news, having an effective public relations operation is critical. It does not take much for a company’s credibility or reputation to be tarnished, and it takes significantly longer for that reputation to be restored than it did to be torn down in the first place.

A trio of industry luminaries — Rozanne Andersen from Ontario Systems, Tim Collins from TrueAccord, and Manny Newburger from Barron Newburger, shared some strategic do’s and don’ts at the Receivables Management Association‘s annual conference held here last week.

“You have a 50/50 shot at recovering from a crisis, at best,” Collins said during the session. “There will be a tremendous amount of fear. Bad decisions will be made.”

Andersen shared a number of myths about reputation management. Those myths include:

  • Silence is an adequate response
  • There is no need to refute a false statement
  • We can manage our own reputation just fine
  • Our CEO will contain his/her own anger during an interview with the press, in a deposition, or on the witness stand
  • Our in-house counsel can represent us and manage our legal needs; he or she can certainly handle a PR crisis
  • PR training is a complete waste of money
  • Staying on message doesn’t matter
  • Reputation management isn’t necessary until a crisis occurs

When it comes to managing your reputation, there are an awful lot of places to look, the panelists noted. Companies should not just be focused on the consumer complaint database from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Here are a list of other sources that companies should be tracking on a regular basis:

  • Direct consumer complaints (complaints filed in writing, verbally over the phone, or via your website)
  • Indirect consumer complaints (such as those filed with CFPB, state Attorneys General, or state regulators)
  • Social media sites
  • Better Business Bureaus

The objective, Andersen noted, is to be the first place a consumer complains.

“You want them to complain to you before they go to a third party,” she said. “Be responsive. Be receptive.”

Newburger warned that anything that is written down, even if it is not intended to be made public, is another possible area of concern.

“Everything you say internally is going to be seen by somebody,” he said. “Managing reputational risk starts with your internal communications.”

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