‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,’ as a popular saying goes, and a lot of experts in various fields agree. Many people plan what to buy in the supermarket by writing a list of items that they need. Others plan where to hold a weekend getaway with friends or loved ones. Corporate executives plan when to launch a new product or service. In the case of public relations, many reputation management experts plan how to respond to potential crises.
Why plan for a crisis? History has examples of how individuals’ and companies’ reputation were affected because they did not plan for a crisis. One example is British Petroleum when one of its oil rigs exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. While the oil conglomerate received negative press daily, its then-CEO Tony Hayward made things worse when he said in a televised interview: ‘There’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do. You know, I’d like my life back.’ Hayward was forced out sometime after BP contained the oil spill.
A more recent example is the so-called horse meat scandal in mid-January of this year. As reported in BBC, Irish food inspectors found horse meat in frozen beef burgers sold by some U.K. supermarket chains, including Aldi, Iceland, Lidl, and Tesco. Legal action was taken against certain meat companies in the U.K., France, and Ireland. Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness said that the incident affected their image as a producer of world-class meat.
As mentioned in the Better Business Hub of electronics maker Blackberry, it is virtually useless to ignore reputation crises especially because of social media and the 24/7 news cycle. Thus, it is important that those in business have a crisis management plan. Keith Griggs, founder of Reputation Management Experts in London, says that it is important to set up a plan that deals with any damage done and to keep it from expanding.
Granted, not all business owners and companies necessarily know how to prepare for a crisis. Fortunately, there are public relations and reputation management experts that can help prepare for and deal with crises before and after they occur. While no one can possibly anticipate every scenario, the important thing is to know how to respond when the time comes.