Most businesses will face a public relations crisis at one time or another. From a string of bad reviews to a serious executive scandal, a negative incident can have a powerful impact on a company’s reputation slot online. No one expects you to be perfect, but they do expect you to be human – and that shows in the way you handle such instances.
A PR crisis is when any negative event or review related to your business gains traction in the public sphere. It could be related to an unhealthy business practice, a customer accident at your location, or an internal, employee-related issue. PR crises are important because they can taint your small business’s image in the minds of your customers. What’s more important to understand about PR crises: You likely can’t control their outcome. While there are some strategies you can implement to mitigate damage, once the information is out there, your business is going to have to roll with the punches and do its best to turn a wrong into a right.
Two examples of PR crises come from two of America’s most well-known companies: Facebook and Uber. Facebook had to deal with data privacy issues related to Cambridge Analytica, which may have affected the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Uber struggled with internal issues regarding sexual harassment and hostile work environments. In both cases, each company made mistakes that small businesses can learn from.
For example, these companies did their best to acknowledge the issue, like when Facebook claimed that “something happened,” rather than something was done (by them). Or when Uber attempted to pave a smoother path, to “move in a new direction,” as if solving the issue were that simple.
Insincerity is a major concern with these apologies, especially when some of the damage is deeply rooted in discriminatory beliefs and criminal actions. At times, it seems that all these companies are doing is sweeping the issue under the rug and hoping society forgets it ever existed.