How to avoid a PR disaster

The recent media storms surrounding H&M’s monkey hoodie and Virgin Trains’ Daily Mail debacle are beginning to ebb, but will the bad PR really ever go away, or follow them like a bad smell?

Once a company hits the headlines for the wrong reasons, journalists can squirrel the dirt away to be mentioned time and again – and revisit it whenever they like, often overshadowing a good news story. At the very least, you might find yourself spotlighted in numerous blog posts listing the worst PR fails.

The sensible thing to do is try and avoid a PR disaster at all costs. So, to try and save you from suffering the same fate, here are our top tips on curtailing a PR catastrophe.

Top 4 tips for avoiding a PR disaster

  1. The most obvious point to make is, if you don’t want the general public to see something your company is doing – don’t do it! You can never guarantee to stem every leak, so ensure your company operates legally, ethically and with sound judgement.
  2. Check your checking process. How many people see your adverts, website, brochure, videos etc. before they go public? Make sure there is a clear and defined proofing process and consider involving a focus group that is not connected to your organisation. It can be easy to miss things when you’re too close to them.
  3. Internal communications are crucial! Make sure everyone is aware of what they can and can’t talk about outside the office walls. And clear the lines of communication so employees feel able to raise concerns if they spot a potential problem.
  4. Look at things objectively and steer clear of anything that might have racial, religious or political undertones unless you’ve carefully considered the potential consequences. If you want to invite controversy or make a point in the public arena, think carefully about how this will be perceived and where it could lead.
  5. Social media has the biggest propensity to cause PR chaos. Having a clear brand social strategy and a social media policy in place for staff will help minimise the risks, as will an approval procedure before posts go live. And set up a procedure for advising employees about what is and is not acceptable for them to post when referring to the brand.

If the worst happens and you do end up in the media for the wrong reasons, make sure you handle it speedily and appropriately.  Most important of all, if you have made a mistake, own up and apologise!