Here's How to Prevent Your Company from Exploding into a PR Fire

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The key, of course, is prevention. Companies need a robust system that keeps small problems just that. There must be instructions with clear, concrete steps to prevent smoke from becoming fire. Here are tips on how to help prevent your company from getting embroiled in a crisis:

1. Analyze Your Risks

2. Get Every Level Involved

I’m a believer that every employee should be CEO-ready. Similarly, every employee should be crisis-ready, too. Seek input from every level of your company, from the lowest-level employee up to Chairman of the Board. Have them identify the potential risks they see. Also have them consider how they would fix problems identified by others. Sometimes the solution is simple, but you’d never know it because of a lack of communication across teams. Then, take the opportunity to train every employee on your crisis management plan, including how to identify potential crises before they get to that stage.

3. Monitor and Vet Social Media

Social media is a blessing and a curse to business. It’s a wonderful platform to deepen ties with current customers, interact with new consumers, and develop fans of your brand. Businesses need social media, but it comes with risk. One simple tweet can start a firestorm of controversy. If your company is active on social media, you need someone constantly monitoring your feed. If a customer reaches out with a problem, get on it immediately. Importantly, you also need a variety of people to vet what you plan to publish on social media. Many a well-intentioned tweet has opened the door to unexpected criticism.

4. Have Fire Extinguishers at the Ready

No matter the planning and prevention, no business is perfect. There will be small problems that grow into big problems, and you need a failsafe in place to stop the bleeding. This includes a clear path for employees to escalate information when they see a crisis brewing. If the leader is on an extended absence, you need to know who will assume the leader’s crisis management responsibilities. This also requires regular training of all employees on your plan.

5. Ownership

It’s inevitable that bad things will happen. How you deal with them will define your company in the social consciousness. If the cover-up is always worse than the crime, then the denial of a crisis is always worse than the underlying problem. If you messed up, or sometimes even if it wasn’t your fault, own it. Transparency and honesty will buy you credibility with consumers, even if the rest of your response isn’t perfect.