The following tips will help keep the damaging statements at bay and protect the company name:
Companies that take the time to employ some or all of the strategies outlined here will increase their chances in bouncing back from highly publicized litigation and win back the public.
Attitude is everything: An organization that finds itself in some form of ligation that has generated public interest has quite avalanche of job to do in terms of maintaining the right attitude. There is always the need to maintain composure and tranquility during public or press briefings. The greatest undoing of any PR personnel is to display any form of anger or contempt towards the public or newsmen. The PRO is expected to be a hero after apparently getting back the image of the organization.
The specific language used will be different for every type of litigation, but the attitude is the same. The company is problem-solving, investigating, and preparing its courtroom presentation, all with a smile. Defend the brand, but acknowledge that sometimes mistakes are made. Either way the company will get to the heart of the problem if there is one and implement a remedy if one is needed.
Consider all of the population segments that are listening: The general public is watching with keen interest when a company they patronize so much found itself in scandalous situation. Too many companies are most concerned about Wall Street. But often, the investor message is too harsh or too defensive for customers, suppliers, a potential jury pool and employees. A consumer brand would need to address both its stockholders and its customers. One group wants to hear that their investments are safe, and the other wants to hear that their children can still safely use their product and services.
Plan to be in court: One major panacea of any Public Relations Officer is being Proactive. The PRO should prepare for any situation even when it seems unlikely. Even if there is a strong belief that the litigation will be solved without a jury or bench trial, consider the feelings every statement is going to provoke when it is blown up beyond proportion and it’s eventually gets into the courtroom. Thus, always be in contact with your legal adviser and prepare for any legal eventuality.
Speak only to your own motivations: Speak for yourself and the image of the company. You don’t have to despise or speak with contempt about the other party. A PR man should always remember that, the other party is speaking for customers and potential customers out there. A company should be responsible: show remorse, and display the emotion of disappointment. There is also need to show concerned, and show desired respect to the complainant in court. It cannot be accusatory nor belittle the opponent. There is always need to practice empathy. Walk in the shoes of those being spoken to, and the appropriate words will follow
Choose a spokesperson carefully: Various spokespersons serve different purposes. While some PR men are very good on screen, some have exceptional writing skills. Thus depending on the nature of case at hand, there is need for proper vetting of the personnel to handle a particular issue. There is always the assertion that, it’s not what you say that matters but really how it is presented or voiced. Verbal and non-verbal skills matter more than the position. If the CEO is not made for television, then do not let him or her near the podium. If the head of PR has never dealt with a public crisis or litigation, it is unsafe to assume he will present the company’s case well.
Utilize the internet: what more can we say about the internet? It reaches a large number of people almost the same time. The PRO can always release statements to shareholders when there is any crisis in the organization. There is also need to use the social media to get to customers too. Report when something good happens, and get on the offense if something negative occurs. The statements should be short and direct. Words must match actions as incongruence makes people psychologically uncomfortable, resulting in doubt as to whether what they are hearing and seeing is the truth.
Be inclusive: It’s good to always have in mind that, the people are the reason why the organization exists in the first place. Thus is will be a good idea to have a department or team meetings to assure the troops that the accusations are being investigated, and you need their help. In the beginning, ask people to come forward if they have information. As the months – and sometimes years – go by, provide regular status reports even if the case is dormant. The less information people have, the more stories they make up. There is also need to be sensitive to be sensitive to employee perceptions. This is in the sense that, most company litigation means that there will be employees who will need to testify.