Contemplating on PR errors as I have been recently, I noted a few common mistakes that companies make when issues are brought to the attention of the media. And there have been many over recent times.
The most common errors are: the CEO not fronting he media or fronting far too late; using sentences such as "There is no need to panic, we have this under control"; using jargon or large words in an attempt make you sound like you know what you are doing (it actually makes you sound arrogant); or not prepared to answer questions from the floor.
For most of us, focussing on the negative is how our brain operates. Recent studies indicate that the only long-term positive memories that we retain in great detail are memories of our holidays. The reason seems to be the heightened emotions and senses involved when we are on holiday which work to imprint the memory. These same two factors are involved when we face something adverse.
Because of this continued pattern of behaviour, our attention is drawn to finding the negatives in any situation, we tend to look for faults as a way of protecting ourselves. And when we find fault, we may experience a sense of satisfaction. (This may be the reason behind the 'tall poppy' syndrome although I suspect that it is more around jealousy than anything else).
So let's look at what good PR looks like;
- Own it - if a mistake is made, acknowledge it and the damage (hurt) it caused.
- Explain it - tell people what happened and the possible cause.
- Fix it - what have you done to make it right.
Do not try and defend the indefensible. People can tell when you are trying to put a spin on a message, when you are trying to deflect responsibility by finding fault in something else, or when you are just making excuses.
Our brains will always do this, defend our position, because it is trying to help us. That's why many of us argue, we are simply defending our position even if we know that we are wrong.
The most important factor in all of this - be sincere. Stop reading from a piece of paper that has words written on it that was prepared by your PR team. Talk from the heart, not the script.