Don’t turn a drama into a crisis

By Ged Henderson, managing editor Henderson News and Media

Ged at The Business Clinic

When it comes to media crisis management many small businesses could be forgiven for asking: “What’s that got to do with me?”

Surely the danger of negative headlines is something that is only faced by multi-nationals that are always under the microscope of the press and media?

If you think that is the case – just look online. Negative headlines and stories, many originating from the world of social media, can impact on businesses of all types and sizes.

As business legend Warren Buffet points out: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

That was just one of the lessons of the recent Business Clinic advice clinic given by Henderson News and Media – a look at how to prevent negative headlines and what you can do to limit the damage if you fall foul of them.

Top of the topics was the danger of social media and the fact that once something is out there in the great online world it is out there forever!

The clinic examined the need for businesses of all sizes to create their social media policy to prevent PR mistakes and mitigate damage.

A good policy that everyone is aware of can be really important. It gives everyone a clear understanding of what messages are encouraged and what should be avoided.

Keep it simple. For instance, don’t say anything on Twitter you wouldn’t be prepared to say to someone’s face.

Share the story and be consistent. Work with your team to build your social media story – and the audience you are looking to target. And that doesn’t just help in a crisis, it will mean a more powerful and well-understood marketing and media message will emerge.

The clinic, held at the Business Clinic’s Preston offices and attended by business owners and managers from a wide range of sectors, also discussed the importance of listening to what people are saying about your business.

And it also looked at how to respond when things go wrong. Speed and transparency are just two of the important considerations here.

But remember not every negative headline or post criticising your business is the end of the world. Put things in context. ABOVE ALL DON’T LOSE YOUR COOL.

And if in doubt take legal advice. It might be that your response can get you in hotter water. Be aware of libel laws.

It is important to think things through and seek proper advice. Media specialists have experience of dealing with situations.

The clinic also talked about appropriate responses if and when the media gets involved. Many newspaper stories start their lives as social media topics these days.

This session was a chance to look at the golden rules of successful PR crisis management. We examined how to manage situations and the drafting of a press statement, if appropriate.

A master-class on press conferences and how to talk to the media followed, including why you should never, ever say: ‘no comment’.

The evening finished with a live, interactive exercise which gave two willing ‘volunteers’ the chance to experience what it’s like to be interviewed by a journalist. It was headline making stuff!

Henderson News and Media is a North West-baed multi-media consultancy. Ged is and award-winning former regional newspaper editor and national newspaper journalist. During his career he has covered major news events, including the Hillsborough disaster and the Lockerbie air crash and has travelled extensively, filing stories from the Falkland Islands, East Africa and Asia.

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