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Crisis: turning a negative into a positive

14/07/2015

Handling a crisis is becoming more difficult, with social media now providing a multitude of channels through which negative PR can spread.

While identifying and mitigating risk tends to sit outside the remit of traditional PR, the comms surrounding responses to the events that slip through the net are extremely important.  While there are an array of tactics that can be deployed to deal with crises, real-world examples tell us there are few techniques more effective than acknowledging mistakes where they are due.

Thomas Cook came under enormous scrutiny recently for its handling of the tragic deaths of two children whose family were holidaying with the brand. Instead of apologising, Thomas Cook pursued a course of denying wrongdoing, resulting in masses of negative attention through press and social media channels when it was found to be at fault. While this is highly unlikely to destroy the travel industry giant, it tarnished the image of a company associated with good times.

However, Alton Towers’ response to a severe incident involving one of its rides recently showed that by admitting fault and apologising sincerely, brands can emerge from crises with their image intact. Merlin accepted full responsibility for the tragic occurrence, which was well received by victims and thus generated good PR. Similarly Hugh Grant’s appearance on the Late Show after being caught in an exceptionally compromising position may have saved his public image.

The public understand things can go wrong for businesses. By taking a responsible and genuinely apologetic approach they can draw on the public’s surprisingly high levels of sympathy and understanding that things don’t always go to plan.