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Directors in crisis - the PR perspective

The company director is the face of the business, responsible not just for ensuring it operates smoothly, but for presenting it in the best possible light to stakeholders, customers and the general public. So what happens when a director finds him or herself in the centre of a media crisis, suffering negative reporting in the newspapers, on television and on social media channels?

Unless it is handled correctly, such negativity can soon spiral out of control, and potentially engulf the company in a time-consuming and damaging process. As such, it is vital that the organisation moves quickly and efficiently to protect directors and minimise the impact on the business and the brand.

The importance of speed

Regardless of the specific nature of the crisis, a fast response is key to preventing it getting out of hand. As soon as any issue or negative coverage appears, it is imperative that the business and director contact their PR experts immediately. They will then work with you to communicate on behalf of both parties, ensuring the message received by the media and via any other channels is consistent and to the point.

They can also help formulate a strategy for addressing any unfavourable reporting over the long term, helping to rebuild the director’s reputation where necessary, while also minimising the effects of the crisis on the business.

Clarification is key

When dealing with the media, any false information and public confusion needs to be dealt with at the earliest opportunity, so it is crucial that both the director and the business are open and transparent about the crisis as it unfolds. If there are any enquiries to which the director or the business do not know the answer, or are unable to respond due to an on-going investigation, then they should say so. This will ensure they appear helpful and cooperative in the eyes of the media.

Talk to all stakeholders

At the same time as talking via media and social media, both the director and the business need to make sure they agree a plan to communicate with all stakeholders, including investors and customers, as well as employees and suppliers. Being honest about the crisis and the measures being taken to resolve it can help salve any concerns they may have about the director and the crisis, as well as reassure employees, minimising the impact on the business. The business’s PR experts can support in this, ensuring that messages received by stakeholders are clear and consistent with other external messages.

Proactive communication

It is important to be proactive in communicating with the media. This can help cut the risk of damaging coverage in the short term, and help rehabilitate the image of both the director and the business in the long term. Issuing statements to the media after each development in the crisis can ensure both parties maintain control over the information flow, helping to limit any unfavourable sentiment in reporting. At the same time, the business should ensure it releases good news stories, e.g. new product launches, strong sales, or recruitment, to offset the negativity, and help to lay the foundations for rebuilding its reputation once the crisis is over.

Working with experts

No business wants to be at the centre of a crisis, particularly not one involving a vital director. However, by responding quickly and with the right messaging, it can both minimise the impact of any negative reporting on its image and its director’s reputation. To ensure the success of the crisis communications campaign, both parties should work closely with their PR experts from the very beginning. This will help them develop the right plan of action for the unique nature of the crisis, helping to protect both the director and the business from the worst of the communications storm. 

Author: Michael Wood, Tangerine PR

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.