February 13, 2013
PR Firm protects clients in crisis
Crisis communications is the quintessential “difficult but necessary” topic. None of us like to think about worst-case scenarios. But, if you maintain your success long enough, you will eventually face a crisis.
How you or the PR firm you hire chooses to handle that crisis could make or break the further success of your business. Unfortunately, here at 5WPR, we have seen far too many business owners or executives make the fatal mistake of trying to “get out ahead” of the crisis without a workable approach to their crisis communications.
That impulse is understandable. One glance here and it’s obvious that I understand exactly what it feels like to encounter a crisis and immediately want to attack it, fix it, mitigate the problem as soon as possible. That’s a trait common to everyone committed to business success.
Unfortunately, it can be exactly that passion that can be a detriment when crisis communications require a more delicate, reasoned response. In my work with 5WPR, I have observed people too close to a crisis situation make tragic mistakes, simply because their proximity precluded objectivity.
Let’s take a look at a recent communications crisis in the pharmaceutical industry. McNeil Consumer Healthcare, makers of the industry-leading acetaminophen product, Tylenol, was faced with the immediate recall of nearly its entire brand line. On the surface, the issue seems simple. Remove tainted products and let the public know you are “on top of the issue.”
Here’s the problem for them. Pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers deal with these issues on a daily basis. They are intimately connected with the standards and practices that govern their industry. The average mom buying Tylenol for her toddler is not. She hears “recall” and goes all “mama bear.” An otherwise reasonable mom may take one look at the empty spot above that Tylenol shelf tag and make the snap decision to never buy another Tylenol product.
A savvy PR firm must connect the precision response of the company with the emotional response of parents across the market segment. The power of crisis communications in this example is exemplified when the consumer is cognizant of the efforts of the company to correct the issue and the company’s communication reflects empathy for the emotionally distanced consumer.