Crisis Management – by Atteline’s Karim Geadah

When does a situation become a crisis and how to approach it, writes Karim Geadah, Account Director, Corporate Practice at Atteline

 Karim Geadah, Account Director, Corporate Practice at Atteline

As we work on various clients in our respective fields, our job as PR consultants is to protect our client’s brand name. For any opportunities or issues, our job is to assist clients throughout the process and advise them on the best course of action.

When does an issue evolve into a crisis?

The first instinct of the public when hearing about a potential situation is to look into whether it is the company’s fault or just an unfortunate event, followed by the degree of negative ramifications that it has caused for everyone involved in it, and how a company reacts to the situation. Regardless of how liable the company is, it is always imperative that they acknowledge that it did occur and provide feedback, especially when the media are involved.

To avoid any potential escalation of the crisis, the company needs to be open about the situation no matter how bad it makes them look and most importantly own up to their mistakes if that was the case. It is important to showcase empathy towards the victim(s) involved and then look at different ways to resolve or somewhat make up for the issue that has just happened. Once you do not address the situation, you lose all credibility and respectability to both the media and the public.

Main factors to be considered 

Always keep the focus on the people and victims affected in the incident as a priority over the reputation of your own brand, while keeping that as a second priority as well. For example, if you are in the hospitality business, and your client is a hotel which just experienced one of its customers getting food poisoning at one of your restaurants, the first reaction would be to check on that person’s well-being while issuing an apology and checking if there is anything you can do to help improve his/her overall experience.

The speed in overall communication and turnaround by the company is also key both internally with the customer and externally, in case this was a press event or an invitation which included media or social media representatives. Journalists and influencers have a responsibility to write about their experiences, and the failure of a company to address these problems will provide these stakeholders with further incentive to document what happened.

Post-crisis steps and timeline

The public outreach and correct steps are crucial in ensuring that you have reached out to as many people in the most time-efficient way possible. Social media is always the first method of communication, in which a post should be shared within 15 minutes of the incident on all platforms, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. An official statement, announcing what had just happened and how the company plans to solve it would then need to be drafted and shared with the media and public within the next one hour.

If this was a more serious situation, which was potentially life-threatening, then more extreme measures are required, which include a high-level spokesperson from the company, preferably the owner or CEO making themselves present to answer any questions from the media or general public. The next step in this situation would be to hold a press conference by the same spokesperson, which includes face-to-face interactions with the same media and public that would be held on the same day of the incident if it occurs in the morning or the following day if it’s in the evening.

It’s okay to make mistakes!

People will always look at the mistakes that a company makes, but what is more important is how said company reacts to them – this is what customers will base their brand sentiment on. At the end of the day, we are all human and no one is perfect, just as long as you are sincere and genuine as these are always well respected and admired characteristics, especially if you’re in the communications business. The key for any client is to always be honest, own up to any mistakes and apologize for them, explain how it may have happened, how you plan to try and make up for it, and lastly and most importantly promise that you will do everything in your power to try and avoid a similar situation in the future.