Questionable ethics, accounting manipulations, environmental abuse, sexual harassment allegations, tax evasion, human rights violations, etc. These are just a few of the issues that have created public relations nightmares for companies around the world in recent years. When news of the scandal first breaks, the public expresses outrage, and the media dissects every detail of the story. As more and more information comes to light, the company will see their reputation take a hit, sales drop and they become persona non grata with even their previously most trusted allies. Usually, in response the company first goes on the defense (denial, lashing out, etc.) then offers an apology with promises to make amends and do better.
The latest company in the midst of the public relations firestorm is Boeing. On March 10th, one of their highly touted new plane models, the 737 Max 8, was involved in a crash in Ethiopia that killed all 157 passengers. The Ethiopian crash was the second for that aircraft model in five months; In October 2018, 189 passengers were killed when their Lion Air flight crashed shortly after takeoff in Indonesia. As similarities of the two crashes came to light, countries around the world swiftly gave orders to ground all model Max 8 and Max 9 planes out of an abundance of caution and care for their citizens. Since then, more details have been provided by media outlets: from previous meetings with pilots who expressed concerns after the first crash and promised improvements not yet implemented to the CEO’s salary and personal information on the passengers and their families. In crisis mode, Boeing execs are once again meeting – with their design teams, the FAA, regulators, pilots’ associations and other stakeholders – to determine what happened, to continue looking at the promised improvements and answer the tough questions. As they work to once against instill public confidence that they are a safe aircraft manufacturer, provide resolutions and move forward, we will all be watching, reading and judging.
Just like Boeing and other companies that have faced crises in the past, your organization too may be tested in some way that may impact your livelihood. While we hope that you strive to be above the fray, operate with honesty and fairness, and follow the rules, there are still ways in which your organization could face bad press, receive dings to your reputation or have false stories published on social media. We live in the digital age where information, whether true or false, can spread like wildfire. Overcoming an organizational crisis is not easy or quick but it is doable. Here are some useful tips from Lida Citroën, an expert in reputation management and personal branding. For the complete article, see 7 Ways to Recover After a Reputation Crisis.
- Set Realistic Goals and Expectations: You must understand the reality of the situation and how grave of an impact the public perception can be. Some situations will not be fixed with a simple apology or empty promises. Clients may be lost, and you may never be able to work in the industry again. Use your legal, administrative and financial resources to understand your situation from all sides.
- Assess the Damage: Conduct a thoughtful and thorough perception sweep of the reputation hit's after-effects. This includes assessing the digital impact such as social media, online relationships, and Google search results. The evaluation gives you a baseline. Using this, you can then create a game plan.
- Separate Emotion from the Necessary Work: When your company, the product of your sweat, blood, and tears is at risk, it is understandable to feel personally attacked. But raw emotions do not play out well on the public stage. You are vulnerable but need to learn to remove your emotion from the equation so that you can sift through the accusations and social media comments to what is actually the truth so you can come up with a game plan to address the issues raised.
They often say that the best defense is a strong offense. As such, you don’t have to wait until you are in crisis mode to come up with a plan. Having a plan ahead of time can help provide clarity, direction and save you from public blunders. Consider creating a plan for your organization using these five Advance Crisis Planning Tips.