Lisa Libin, Vice President
An employee can be a company’s strongest asset. However, when an employee goes “rogue” – going against company policies and values, a PR crisis can ensue, reflecting and ultimately damaging a company’s brand.
From Starbucks employees choosing to have some loitering customers arrested to Tim Horton’s franchisees publicly lashing out over cuts to their benefits – although these issues are caused by rogue employees – it is still the responsibility of the brand to respond and clean up the mess.
What can a brand or company do when its reputation is tarnished by others? Below are some response recommendations for brands to follow when handling a PR issue not of their doing:
- Move quickly
With the power of social media, an incident is likely to go public, and potentially viral, like rapid fire. Gone are the days of having the luxury of sitting around a boardroom table for days to discuss a response – companies need to respond now. And fast. However, before distributing a response, ensure you are also following recommendation #2:
- Don’t be generic
Too often, companies are quick to respond with a generic statement – which can often cause additional frustration among consumers and the public who are looking for a more specific response or a call to action. Create a response that speaks to the problem – something as simple as “this isn’t acceptable, we are looking into it” can at least show the public you are taking the issue seriously.
- Tailor your reaction to the incident
There is no formulaic approach to a PR incident. Each crisis requires its own tailored response and outside counsel can often assist with creating a crisis communications path specific to the incident at hand.
- Go above and beyond when you can
This lesson can go all the way back to the Tylenol incident of the 1980’s where Johnson & Johnson recalled all of its products from the shelves, not just Tylenol products. An expensive business decision? Absolutely. But what it showed consumers is that Johnson & Johnson was willing to put customer safety ahead of profit margins to ensure all products were safe. When a brand goes beyond the simple response to an issue, it shows its audience that it truly cares and values their business.
While a number of recent incidents in the media have involved only one or two employees who made questionable or downright wrong decisions, it is always important to remember that all employees are representatives of the brand and it is important for the organization to act swiftly but act smartly.
Lisa Libin is Vice President at Brookline Public Relations. Lisa loves a good crisis (as long as it’s not a personal one!) and has vast experience in issues management and brand reputation issues, working with local and global communications teams to handle ongoing and current industry issues.