Being in a public relations program means that we look at a lot of campaigns; some you will probably have heard of (hello Tylenol disaster of 1982) and some you may not have heard of if you weren’t directly involved (NYC Marathon crisis during Hurricane Sandy). The one takeaway from every crisis? Communication isn’t just important, it is KEY.
One of the more recent, and Canadian, example that really captured my attention was the listeriosis crisis that gripped the nation in 2008. It was one of the worst cases of food contamination in recent history. Although there were swift recalls and news alerts, it wasn’t enough to prevent 20 deaths, thousands more falling ill, and a class action lawsuit. But this isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when people think of McCain’s; in fact, they’ve managed to bounce back quite well. And I believe that’s due to their extremely effective PR campaign. In contrast to organizations that have avoided and placed blame elsewhere, or kept a low profile, Maple Leaf opted for a strategy of high visibility. This had the CEO, Michael McCain, front and center taking ownership. You can see the video of his two apologies here:
What can we learn from the way this crisis was handled?
- Always have a plan – it’s not if something goes wrong, it’s when. News goes viral in an instant and companies need to have a crisis plan in place for when that happens. Be ready to use all your platforms, and use them well, to get your message across.
- Accept responsibility – people know that bad things happens. Accidents happen. Baring gross negligence on the part of the company or staff, people are more likely to forgive you if you just accept responsibility. Don’t try to run away or hide; it will almost always catch up with you.
- Learn from your past – there is no one right method, and you will always have to adapt. But learn from your past mistakes, as well as those of your competitors. George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Check out the following links for some more information:
Business Insider – PR Fiascos Handled Well
Effective Crisis Management – Tylenol
Canadian Journal of Communication – McCain Crisis