In a PR specialist’s ideal world, journalists fight with each other to write about the business he or she promotes, and reputational crises do not occur at all. Even if they do, all employees are well-prepared and instructed in advance how to behave and how to answer uncomfortable questions from the media. The concept of “anti-crisis PR” is banned from all dictionaries and removed from the list of leaders’ and top managers’ fears.
However, in reality, companies regularly lose up to 22% of their turnover when potential customers find at least one negative material on the first page of search engines or social networks. Israeli writer and journalist David Grossman surveyed 400 companies with 100,000 employees each and concluded that the average business loss due to inadequate communication within the company is 62.4 million dollars a year. You can read more about this research in David’s article “The Cost of Poor Communications”.
It is quite difficult to build an ideal information policy: interaction with a large number of people — employees, customers, contractors — gives rise to misunderstanding, negativity, conflicts. But this is a mechanism that you need to put on rails once and then clap your hands joyfully for a long time. Or not to clap if there are mistakes in the communication strategy.
- Interruptions and failures in PR activities
The first mistake companies often make is inconsistent communications.
A very common situation: a PR man came and established relations with the media in a couple of months. From time to time, the employee gives some expert comments, answers journalists’ requests and writes author’s columns. And then he leaves. And there’s silence. Six months later, the company finds a new PR person, and communications resume. But there is a complete misunderstanding in the head of the audience: was the company closed? Or have its values changed? Staffing problems? What’s happening? All these questions are guaranteed to hit the reputation of the business.
You can’t be silent for a long time. Otherwise, the audience will forget about you, coverage and citation rates will drop, and you will cease to be interesting. Even exclusively seasonal companies and annual forums come up with ways to communicate with customers during a lull: contests, collaborations, live broadcasts, and so on. The main thing is not to be silent. Otherwise, there is always a risk of losing part of the audience and forgetting how communication and positioning were originally built.
- Poor communication within the company
It happens that the staff isn’t aware of the changes within the company. Sometimes employees don’t even know that there appeared special offers and discounts, personnel changes or new business lines.
New offers can lead to really awkward situations. Business allocates budgets for advertising, an interested buyer phones the call center, and its employees just shrug. Nobody knows what the client is talking about. Something is definitely broken here.
There are a lot of “medicines” for such failures — ranging from special mailings within the company to planning meetings with the relevant people and departments. The main thing is to make sure that these steps are done on time. Before the sales managers ask why some strange people call them a hundred times a day with questions about the promised discount.
- Offtopic PR
A popular mistake among young companies or very ambitious tops. When there aren’t many newsbreaks yet, but one wants to speak to the masses.
A typical situation: a business begins to talk about itself in a blog and social networks, and each post gains ten likes — from the head’s mother and loyal employees. It’s not easy with the media. Large agencies receive several thousand requests every day and, of course, choose either the most impressive stories or news from well-known companies. And then a PR specialist starts to hectically come up with “exciting” content on any topic. As a result, the company develops a weak Frankenstein-like reputation.
In this situation, it is much more reasonable to outline a content plan and add relevant news to it. If something suitable happens -, add it to the content plan, if not- just stick to the original plan. No need to expect an instant wow effect from public relations. It is much more effective to slowly but surely create useful content and tell interesting stories to the audience . Over time, customers will catch up, and the brand will develop a strong expert reputation. Then word of mouth will also start working, and business will be happy.
- Positioning a test product as the final one
How else can one lose customers and incur reputational costs? Release an incomplete product and not tell anyone that this is, in fact, a test version.
It is not uncommon for a business to skip several stages of validation and testing in pursuit of rapid implementation and promotion of a new product while generously paying the media and bloggers for advertising. Naturally, this approach leads to a bunch of disappointed buyers, many of whom get eager to leave devastating comments and reviews. Some companies try to disguise the negativity of a raw product with purchased reviews, but it only makes things worse.
An early preview and access stirring up public interest are understandable and, actually, great. But when launching a beta version, it’s better to call it like that. It’s not scary.
- Rampant Hype
Hyping on any topic and spamming with viral promotions are common mistakes of many companies and campaigns. Especially if it’s done in a clumsy and unimaginative way. These tricks can give results once or twice, but then they usually start to annoy the audience and give the communication a tabloid feel — not really what a successful business needs.
Frantic newsjacking looks ridiculous: entrepreneurs, traders, brokers comment on everything and eventually lose the trust of even the most loyal media. The value of information from such commentators drops sharply, and the reputation of an “expert” also falls dramatically.
Instead of jumping headlong into commenting on every point of the agenda, it’s better to soberly evaluate each viral or scandalous PR action and predict dozens of possible scenarios in advance. Everything is good, but in moderation. Okay, not everything, but a lot.
- Contradictions in outgoing information
Another serious mistake of PR specialists is not to track down errors and inaccuracies in published materials and in the statements of the company’s speakers.
PR professionals cannot afford to let their hair down and let communications take their course naturally. A business is exposed to great reputational risks if its representatives provide outdated, incorrect or contradictory information. After all, then this information circulates in the public field, causing a lot of questions from investors, customers and partners of the company. Especially now, in the age of the unforgiving Internet. Finding out the right information is always costly and unpleasant. Clients and potential partners are unlikely to have the time and desire to constantly engage in fact-checking — most likely, it will be easier for them to replace such a careless company with a less distracted candidate.
There is only one way out — a PR specialist must know absolutely everything about the promoted business. And have a clear position and understanding on any issues of the company. And also keep track of all changes in a timely manner and have a clear position on them too. And, of course, before submitting any material to work, it’s better to take a break and check again. And one last time, just in case.