As we wrote in our last blog, PR means different things to different people but one thing’s for sure, it’s about more than just getting your latest product or service into the local media.

Managing your company’s reputation should be a constant priority, and it should therefore be at the forefront of your mind every time you communicate with your customers, your staff, your stakeholders, your trustees, your competitors or the public. Whether it be on your website, social media feeds, direct mail, labelling – it all counts. And that’s why your overall brand and the personality of your business is a really important thing to get right early on.

That said, sometimes a crisis does happen and instead of trying to get your company into the press, you’ll be trying to keep it out. Do you know what you’d do if a crisis happened, and how you’d respond if you had journalists on your doorstep asking you for your version of events?

One of the services that we offer clients is training and support in crisis communications. So often clients don’t think that it’s something that they need to worry about. But what would you do if, as a B&B owner, there was a fire whilst people were staying with you? Or if your customers suffered from food poisoning after eating in your restaurant? Or if you lost sensitive customer data? Or maybe your IT systems fell victim to a virus or went down whilst processing customers payments?

Last year we attended a conference where one of the speakers was Jenny Packwood from KFC. You may remember the story – in 2018, KFC, that well-known fried chicken outlet ran out of chicken. Now if that’s not a crisis we don’t know what is! But the fact is, that this company (with the help of their two agencies, Mother and Freud’s) had trained for this. Instead of it being a threat to this well-known brand, the experienced team managed and owned the situation. This provided them with a chance to show their simple, straight talking values and to be honest about the mistake. They owned up to it. They said sorry. They recognised that they’d made a massive error and they spoke honestly and clearly to their audience via a multitude of channels including newspaper advertisements, social media, their website and their shops. By being so open and by ensuring that their communications could be seen by everybody, they placed their brand in the forefront of people’s minds.

Jenny Packwood was quoted in PR Week as saying: ‘Those of you who have worked in the thick of a crisis know that you often feel like you have completely lost control, and the story has its own momentum. This (our approach) totally shut it down; all of the attention was focused on our response, as opposed to whether we were paying our staff, which we were doing, or what we were doing with the wasted chicken.’

Who in your team would manage your social media channels if something happened? Who would you appoint as spokesperson? Who would ensure the continued running of the company? Would your team know what to do? And most importantly, how would you protect and keep your customers?

Our advice to all companies is to understand your reputation. Be honest about what you do well and where your weaknesses might be. Ask your customers. Talk to your teams about where things could go wrong. And recognise where you might need help.

McQueenie Mulholland work with our clients on ensuring that their brand truly represents their company values. We help clients to put together a communications strategy that really means something to their staff, their customers and anybody who has a stake in the business. And we help organisations to plan for the worst so that, just like KFC, you can turn it around and turn a potential crisis in to an opportunity.

If you would like some help with planning for crisis PR please contact McQueenie Mulholland.