Lindwa Communications: How to side-step a PR nightmare with strategic crisis communications

This year has been eventful and despite having to deal with the COVID-19 global pandemic, there have been other problems that have surfaced and caused great controversy. Such as the Clicks hair advert that has been dubbed “profoundly offensive and racist’ by the South African Cabinet. To the City of Cape Town housing controversy, which has been under fire over the demolition of housing structures during the lockdown period. There are many others, but I note these two in particular because of the heat it fueled, and how the poor ‘communications etiquette’ from these organisations – sparked the flames and left an already disgruntled South Africa in an uproar.

In some circumstances, what causes the uproar is how the situation is handled. Because every brand, company and organisation needs effective brand communication and a diverse team. I’ll emphasize having diversity because a non-racial and unbiased team that functions in a workspace that respects employment equity – will save you from making dangerous mistakes and only offering an ‘apology’ to remedy the situation.

Handling a PR nightmare successfully is an acquired skill and Lindwa Communications offers brands and businesses crisis communications management. Because when it comes to a crisis, everyone tends to react impulsively. This is why you need to outsource a communications company (like us) that can remain sober-minded and implement effective reputation management. 

This is how you’ll avoid a PR crisis and implement effective crisis management strategies:

1. It’s important to understand your business ethics and what principles your company is established on. This becomes the starting point for crisis communications management because when a PR nightmare hits, it usually stems from a code of ethics being violated. So, going back to your basics is essential and your team, affected parties and the general public will know what you stand for –  and how this is a crisis in-house too. This also shows your morals and how you’ll commit to fixing the situation.

2. “No comment” is your go-to answer until your communications strategy is implemented. Don’t ever give the media an official statement without consulting with an external communications company. In the iconic words of Dudu Myeni in the State Capture Commission of Inquiry, you will recite: “may I not answer chairperson, in case I incriminate myself”.

3. Every business needs to ‘fire-drill’ a crisis communications strategy. This means you will have a comprehensive strategy that deals with internal and external stakeholders so that everyone is in the loop with what’s going on. Your crisis management taskforce NEEDS an external company that will remain objective. It can also include some of your executives, company spokesperson, brand manager and your public relations department. This crisis management task force will understand the role each person plays in a crisis communications strategy.

4. From the intern to CEO, you’ll brief the entire company on what to say regarding the crisis. No-one is going to share their “opinions” when a crisis management strategy is in play. Because when you’re representing an organization or company, you need to always think before you speak. No-one on your team should give the press or social media platforms unsolicited opinions or how they feel about the matter. They can just report on the facts and what the solution is for optimal damage control. 

In a nutshell, most PR nightmares can be handled delicately when the full team understands how to zip-it and follow the protocol from the communications manager. If you know you’re wrong, please don’t use the platform you are on as a chance to debate how “right” you are. Apologise and fix it. The golden rule is to never try and justify nonsensical things. The organization will always bounce back but your integrity can take a major crash because this will always be a public matter that could follow your career. This leads to my final question; does your company have a crisis communications strategy on standby? If you’re interested in establishing one, Lindwa Communications is at your disposal and we will “Olivia Pope” any communications crisis.

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