A few weeks ago, we explained that your franchise brand needs a PR crisis management plan. Simply put, you’re going to face public relations calamity at some point—not a single company out there is perfect. And you have to be able to react with speed, honesty and precision to help massage the PR wrinkle out.
Where Should You Start?
Without going into too much complexity regarding the details of what a plan should include, here are the basic guidelines for any franchise system regarding crisis management:
- Your plan should include a list of key people who are responsible for owning crisis situations, along with their 24/7 contact information.
- Update the plan as needed to reflect company turnover so that the right names and contact information is listed.
- Educate and re-educate the corporate team, franchisees and employees about the plan, at least once or twice each year.
- Encourage franchisees to educate their managers and employees at training and on a regular basis (at least once a month to compensate for turnover). This way, no employee can claim “they didn’t know what to do.”
- Have a simple laminated card in each franchise location that simply instructs employees to reach out to the corporate communications contacts should any negative situation arise at the location in the absence of the franchisee.
While your plan may need slight adjustments to suit the respective situation, it will always embody these two elements:
If you don’t communicate immediately to all your key audiences, the media gains control. News spreads fast—particularly bad news—and especially online. So be proactive.
Communicating the Right Message
Your first communication should show genuine concern for your customers, employees and the general public. Put that message out there as soon as possible using whatever vehicles you can. Include whatever basic factual information you have on hand regarding the situation in this first statement. The word “fact” is critical. Never speculate. If you have to say, “We are still gathering facts and will keep you updated,” that’s better than nothing. Don’t hide and stay quiet while you await developments.
As new information becomes available, you can update the statement. The designated spokesperson can use the statement to speak with media. That person should be instructed to stick to the facts and sentiments in the statement—never veer.
Monitor the Internet and respond appropriately with the guidance of your PR firm to any negative banter.
It’s important to admit mistakes and start taking steps to rectify the situation immediately. Don’t let the lawyers dictate your positioning. Their job is to prevent a lawsuit. Your job is to regain the respect and confidence of the public and protect your reputation.
Dictate the Conversation
Remember, “No comment” is the same in the public’s eyes as, “I’m guilty, and I don’t care.” Some of the worst PR crisis case studies were the results of attorneys driving the strategy. Other bad endings involved companies who tried to deny or cover up the truth. It always comes out later and will haunt you.
Get started with a franchise PR strategy that brings in the power of content marketing to get ahead of the next crisis…