Archive for the ‘crisis management’ Tag

Have no doubts on social media in times of crisis

As defined in the book, Master the skills to disaster by Harvard Business School; “Crisis management can be defined as a change, either sudden or evolving, that results in an urgent problem that must be addressed immediately. For a business, a crisis can cause damage to its employees, its reputation or bottom line.”

Throughout the learning of this course, I realized that social media has entered every nook and corner of the corporate structure and has revolutionized the art of doing business, to the extent of changing the guidelines of managing crisis.  “internet is the new communication threat for all organizations and it’s something that, even today, big organizations are not taking seriously enough,’ says Hill & Knowlton’s MD of crisis and issues Tim Luckett.”

The emerging social media are used differently in a serious crisis situation as opposed to social marketing. Any doubts raised about what potential damage could attacking blog posts, tweets, and viral videos do to the reputation of the company, were laid to rest forever with the dominos prank videos which hit a million viewers overnight and put the company into the most embarrassing situation in its history.

Dominos wasted no time in burying the truth and came out in the open with an apology and a viral video which they owed to every trusted customer across the world, thus brushing off the dust from their reputation.  

On the other hand, Eurostar’s recent crisis was a classic example of why having a grip on social media is crucial. Passengers were tweeting complaints and updates while stuck amidst the snow. But Eurostar failed to own its brand name on the social media platform.

Avoiding the avoidable:

The foremost step for an alert and responsive PR team would be to identify a potential crisis even before it occurs. Waiting for a disaster to happen is like inviting trouble. A sturdy PR strategy can minimise if not negate the damage to caused to the brand due to negligence or casual attitude. It would be appropriate to mention Toyota here for their delayed responses to the global crisis which has caused a huge dent to their brand and loss of customer faith. The company could have easily prevented a bad situation from becoming worse by acting promptly and issuing some explanation to clear out the cloud of confusion. And the result, it brought more and more trouble for the Toyota car company with recall after recall, customer complaints and fears, congressional investigations, stock price reductions, and a roller coaster ride of media coverage.

Act quickly to reduce the momentum of damage:

A Japanese proverb says, if it stinks, put a lid on it. And Toyota religiously followed suit by denying that they have a crisis in the first place. The company officials did not confront the media until 2 weeks and this delay made the critical voices grow louder. Expecting to escape from the public eye without giving due explanations and cashing upon their poor memory is not the best PR strategy anymore. Social media has given birth to a more alert, participative and inquisitive audience.

The Toyota crisis management strategy:  

  • Publishing a written apology in print
  • Direct mail for recall
  • Regular press releases, public apologies and explanations on TV
  • Television ads showing testimonials of customers driving Toyota since the past 50 years and have also addressed public grievances by admitting they made mistakes in quality control.

The do’s and don’ts of PR practices:

According to an article in PRweek 24 february 2010, Social media make crises spread faster and allow the public to voice their opinions and experiences or propagate rumours in a highly visible manner. And crises are increasingly breaking online, without the knowledge of management

  • PRO’s should closely monitor the digital space’, using tools such as BlogPulse, BoardReader, IceRocket, RSS feeds and Google Alerts.
  • Being friendly or minimally cordial to the key online influencers, bloggers, attackers
  • Respond immediately-put a statement online and then address the media traditional way
  • A fool proof back up strategy can come handy at the time of crisis.
  • Crisis takes a global shape because of the internet. So applying a different strategy in different geographical areas for the same brand can be fatal.



Non profit PR v/s the other sectors

” Charities is the only sector that practices ethical PR and all other sectors mainly practice spin or propaganda”


Being a part of this debate, i had to support one side of the statement that yes, charities is the only way to do good, ethical PR for a simple reason that charities work for a philanthropic cause and not for scaling profits. So who cares what means were adopted to achieve a noble end! ” greater good for a greater number”. But unfortunately, the world isn’t like a black and white grid of chess board that it would be so easy to seggregate the good from the bad!

My conclusion about this debate like all other debates is that if there have been a series of scandals in the corporate sector and our politicians (whom we love to hate) have been caught doing propaganda just to cash in more votes; the NGO sector has also had its fair share of bad press and public scrutiny. NGO’s have also been attacked as a puppet at the hands of corporate giants who aim to cash in more credibility for their CSR activites on behalf of the charity they loop in. And in return for their favour, they end up getting huge sums of donations!

It could be argued that NGO’s are also selling a “product” of contented conscience for two main motives 1) To gain more media attention 2) For more donations 3) Win more supporters. But there is a difference in the approach and the end result. They are not serving the way trade unions or trade associations do.

Trevor Morris in his book “PR- a persuasive industry” says that NGO’s are engaged in a sophisticated transaction where there are no tangible goods involved or a conventional exhange of services. But customers end up buying a contented afterglow after contributing money or investing their time. Good PR at work ensures sustainance of volunteers or donors.

According to the international journal of Not-for-profit law, volume 8; january 2006: there has been a gradual erosion of confidence in leaders, institutions of governments and corporate houses. The paralysis and poor performance of these groups who promise to serve for public good have given an endless stream of scandals and have shattered public trust. in such a scenario, NGO PR emerges as a credible source of information in an effort to address the deficiencies.

The key points that came out from the debate were:

Credibility and transparency are the two main credentials which an NGO seeks to have because that leads to more donations and good publicity. But this is impossible to achieve without being ethical. Since NGO’s are not accountable to any governed body; thus,PR techniques used by NGO’s should be subject to greater scrutiny to ensure long term public trust.  

NGO sector has to be more ethical in terms of practising PR to mobilise the cause that they believe in with no underlined selfish motive. otherwise, it fails the very purpose of being n the voluntary sector. The attitue has to be self(less) and not self (ish)

NGO PR would ideally not wait for a crisis to occur and act with profound responsibility towards all citizens; unlike other sectors who indulge in CSR only if there is a crisis, an emergency or bad press.

NGO PR believes in building a “brand image” through long-term relationships with its donors and media, active campaigning and spreading awareness without calling it an act of “PR”

NGO’s use tool of persuasion in order to bring about awareness and change in the public opinion towards an issue or a problem. Unless persuasion doesn’t cross the line of propaganda, spin or astroturfing, it is acceptable!


Related articles:

How to get media attention for your cause:

Issue management:


coke zero indulges in astroturfing: