Last month, India’s low-cost airline IndiGo landed itself in the middle of a Public Relations disaster, which dented the corporate image. Social media had a field day – with a video doing the rounds which showed a fist-to-fist of a staff vs a flier, after a flight. The jokes, memes and boycott calls continued; and even a public apology from the airline’s CEO did not stem this onslaught.
This brings up the issue of brands in crisis, which triggers bad publicity. But, communicators need to be skilled in the art of responding to negative situations. Successful communications and reputation management is also dependent on the relationships you build with your key audiences – the media, decision makers and other influencers in your field of work.
How can a savvy PR professional reclaim the lost ground in these situations?
What does one do? Ameer Ismail, Chief Growth Officer, PointNine Lintas & President, GolinOpinion says, “there can be several types of negative situations in PR – client crises, incorrect reportage, client servicing/relationship issues and sometimes inability to forecast outcomes as clearly as one needs to”.
When crisis occurs it’s very easy to give into panic but it’s imperative to stay calm and in control of the situation, observes Manas Mrinal, Co-Founder: Skateboard Media. Crisis eludes logic and may hamper people from taking rational decisions but the real strength of the communications team, both internal and external needs to come into play and help in overcoming the crisis by showing resilience. Being transparent and communicative to media and stakeholders is of prime importance as keeping quiet and hiding information leads to more speculation. A well-planned communication needs to go out with primary objective to neutralise the situation and discourage further negative sentiments on the situation, explains Manas.
How can the situation be contained? Ameer believes in following a few key principles – act quickly and respond fast, be ethical, be transparent, engage with all stakeholders and during a crisis, don’t shy away from communicating, in fact one should ‘Communicate to Win’. While Manas says, “Every communications team needs to be prepared in advance and anticipate crisis. Unfortunately the fact remains that no matter how much we prepare, more often than not a crisis can’t be avoided. Being well-prepared helps the brand and teams handle it better with a more logical approach and strategic action plan”.
How do you stay positive in negative situations?
It is difficult to keep a positive attitude, in such situations. And, we are judged by the way we communicate, so staying positive is the professional way to react to adverse situations. Any negative reactions will make the circumstances worse. You can beat negative situations by keeping a positive attitude. In the business world keeping a positive attitude in negative circumstances is a valuable skill to learn. Most importantly, it will keep your professional reputation intact.
Six rules to help you stay positive:
- Keep your response in check – Controlling your response is the golden rule of staying positive in a negative situation. Think about your response and wait until you calm down. If you respond out of emotion you will only make it worse. And negative situations compound when they cause you stress.
- If you are at fault, admit it – You need to step up and admit it. If you make a mistake that leads to a negative situation, acknowledge it, and learn from it. Claim responsibility for that, and consider how you can improve for the future. On the flip side, don’t go overboard. Your apology should be sincere, concise and should also show that you understand the problem and know how to avoid it in the future.
- Be sure to clarify – After you’ve had the opportunity to clear your thinking, step back and think about the main points that the situation conveys. Go back, and revisit the reactions or feedback – for getting a better understanding of what you need to work on. Analyse the situation and you will be crystal clear on the steps you should take to improve in the future. It’s never a bad idea to work out your improvement areas.
- Maintain a positive attitude – Don’t allow yourself to be jaded by a negative situation. Eliminate any negative thoughts for nothing good is gained from a negative reaction. Don’t jump to conclusions. Be proactive in dealing with adverse circumstances, not reactive. Doing so will enhance your professional side – revealing that even under negative circumstances you can maintain control and deal with any issue in a positive way. Affirm the positive truths you know to be true to your brand.
- Consolidate the learnings – A negative situation or event can be an opportunity to learn and grow. We can refer to Albert Einstein’s quote – “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Train yourself so you control the situation, instead of allowing the situation to control you!
- Move on…don’t dwell on it – Don’t dwell on the negative…specially if the negative feedback caught you by surprise! But, while you should allow yourself time to work through the implications, you should also commit to let them go.
Negative situations are a fact of life for brands, but it should not get you down and out. By knowing the ways not to react, both outwardly and internally, you’ll be able to recover quickly and shine!