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PR Debacle? Planning Can Be Your Greatest Asset

To a certain degree there is no control as to when a bad PR moment may occur. By having established guidelines about how to react to situations, you can control some of the damage and frequently turn a bad moment into a good one. There are some situations that require a crisis management plan in addition to a general PR plan, yet even a small situation can benefit from a prepared set of steps.

Internal Reaction is as Important as External

There is good professional PR such as when a reviewer from the newspaper comes in and loves your new dish and raves about it. Amateur PR, with the advent of the phone cameras we all carry, brings us into the moment of a phenomenal meal with social media. Sometimes the review or photo is not so positive. It is in these instances where planning can help not only with the public reaction, but also the internal reaction of owners and staff.

Ranging from situations where someone’s past transgressions come to light, to a fly in the soup, to a misplaced piece of parsley on the plate, in the digital age PR debacles are around every corner waiting to unfold. While there are lots of things you can do to deter them from happening, there are ones that occur and can only be taken care of after the fact. It is these situations you will benefit from having a plan.

What Should Your Plan Consist Of?

Knowing who will guide the process internally and who will speak with the public, and having them on the same page, can quell or solve a situation quickly. Scenarios of bad PR moments can easily be established in a brainstorming situation with staff, management and owners. Have a variety of small to escalated situations that need to be taken care of in an orderly fashion and create the reaction steps around it.

Examples of Scaled Situations:

Worst Case:
Chef or member of staff is accused of sexual harassment or using derogatory verbiage currently or in the past. Have a crisis management plan in place. Call your lawyer.

Medium Damage:
The crew is videoed doing something they should not have done. Address the situation internally first, and respond to the press with the actions taken to help reassure customers that all has been remedied.

Scathing review on a social media site or newspaper. Perhaps the waitstaff was deemed curt by the diner, the food was perceived to be cold. Address the situation. Many sites where reviews can be posted have room for the business owner to respond (TripAdvisor and YELP for example). Respond in a calm, cool and collected fashion and directly address the issues. Letting the person know that you care is calming in and of itself. Invite the person to come back and try again.

Key to Salvaging a Bad PR Moment:

Everyone reacts emotionally at first to any given situation. That is called being human. Knowing how you should react by having it written down, rather than letting the emotional reaction be seen by your stakeholders (public and staff), can be your saving grace in rectifying a situation.

What’s the Worst Thing You Can Do in a Bad PR Moment?

Ignore the situation and pretend it is not happening.


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