Getting your Message out During Challenging Times

By Ismail Jan, Data Journalist at Signal AI,

Crises are unavoidable. Bad press is not. Whether you like it or not, your company’s going to go through some trying times. This doesn’t mean, however, that you fall prey to the media’s hunger for controversy.

Over the last twelve months, we’ve seen many examples of companies that have hit bumps in the road. Some managed to skillfully spin these into positive narratives, making the most of a bad situation. Others missed a trick by not being proactive enough, letting the media rip them to shreds. But how can a company’s PR team get their message out during challenging times?

Tip 1: Address the issue and address it fast. Back when the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal was exposed, Facebook make the mistake of letting four whole days of silence pass before CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly addressed the scandal. Over this period, Facebook’s shares dropped steeply by 9%. As you can imagine, the media was having a field day.

Thankfully, Facebook’s shares stabilised the days after Zuckerberg’s statement, and even began to rise again after Zuckerberg promised to implement better security features during interviews with the press. Facebook was able to convey that it is a company that values user privacy, and that they are committed to improving their platform’s security.

Tip 2: Promise to do better.  Last year’s Oxfam sexual exploitation scandal made big waves in the media.  The revelation was an instant blow to the way the organisation was perceived, as income from the public dropped by £3.8 million in 2018.

In situations like these, the best thing to do is put your hands up, admit accountability, and promise to do better. Oxfam did just that. They chose to be transparent with the public and the media about their internal investigation by publishing a ‘Haiti investigation report’. They stated: “However hard it is to confront mistakes of the past, we believe that ultimately, this will help us take meaningful action and become more effective in our mission to tackle poverty and help people hit by disaster.”

The charity also thoroughly discussed the scandal in their annual report, where they “acknowledged serious failings in the handling of that case”. As shocking as the scandal was, Oxfam emphasised that they are a charity that wishes to aid people as best as they can.

Tip 3: Learn from the best. There’s no doubt that some companies handle PR crises better than others. Over the past few years, Centrica – and the energy sector as a whole – has experienced unprecedented media scrutiny. This is all happening during a period of huge positive change for both the company and the industry.

Tim Cowen, Head of Media Relations at Centrica is no stranger to a crisis.

On 28 March, during a live Q&A webinar, Tim will speak on how he ensures positive initiatives get the media coverage they deserve, despite crises. He will reflect on his many years of experience at National Car Parks, Royal Mail and Centrica, and will take live questions from attendees.

Register now to save your spot.  If you are unable to attend the live webinar, we will send you a link so that you can watch it on-demand.

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