Stepped In It
Damage Control Techniques: When the United Food and Commercial Workers Union failed twice in the last decade to unionize Smithfield Foods' meat-processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., they should have recognized the brick wall ahead. But, they didn't.
Instead, according to a damage control article by
Mary Worrell of Inside
Business, the union took its public relations
battle to the Washington, D.C., area and flooded buses,
billboards, and local television and radio airwaves
with a negative ad campaign aimed at Smithfield products
-- a roundabout way of influencing North Carolina
families to unionize.
This public relations campaign is a waste of the union's effort and money, which brings into question their leadership and vision. People the union could have persuaded may now feel alienated by a big media campaign out of D.C., which does not resemble the grassroots audience the union claims to represent.
If your company or organization comes under attack, here are some helpful damage control PR tips:
- Write, distribute and post on your website a news release or news releases that dissect the misinformation and present the facts.
- Cite incorrect statements. The union is saying a Smithfield worker sliced “thousands of hams a minute” which translates to a few dozen hams a second. That’s impossible, and it calls into question the credibility of the complaints. No one likes unfounded attacks.
- Present the information on a well-designed, well-written website. Every business that has the potential to end up on page one should have an off-line website that covers a variety of crisis scenarios and can be tweaked and on-line quickly. Speed is the name of the game in our Internet-driven society. If you are not proud of your website, you need to be before a crisis hits.
- Inform employees quickly of high-level anti-company public relations campaigns so they hear it from you first. Let them be your ambassadors who knock down the attacks through their social networks and lend public relations help.
- Coordinate interviews with reporters covering the issue. If the issue is important, reporters should talk with senior organizational leaders -- not only the PR team. The public relations team should prepare the battlefield, but leadership should be the on-the-record voices.
- Communicate openly with reporters, meet deadlines and always be accessible to address follow-up questions.
- Talk positives as often as possible, but address rumors, innuendo and misinformation. Take the high ground as often as possible and focus on your organization's strengths.
- Understand every element of the story. Try to know all the people who will be sourced in the reporter's coverage of the story. Make sure you understand what each source is likely to contribute to the story.
- Invite reporters to your company to give them a firsthand look.
- Have a strategy to engage in new media like blogs and YouTube. Be prepared to provide responses in multiple venues. Communication opportunities are abundant and more people can enter the conversation. Protect your brand and use the situation to strengthen it.
- Realize when you need public relations help.
What you should not do when attacked
- Do not ignore the attack. If you've been targeted by smear specialists you'll need to take them on to either hold your ground or grain ground at their cost.
- Do not assume people will automatically dismiss the attacker. Just because you've successfully developed a brand for years or decades, doesn't mean you can rest on your laurels.
- Do not repeat the negative. If they accuse you of "employee abuse" do not say, "We do not abuse our employees," which repeats the charge you haven't committed. Better to say, "The relationship between our company and employees is strong and our record shows it."
If your company's 15 minutes of fame turns out to be damage control against absurd charges, are you prepared to successfully handle it and turn it to your advantage?
About Rourk Public Relations
Rourk Public Relations is expert at PR tips, PR, damage control, public relations, and public relations campaigns. It provides public relations help to clients in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake and throughout Virginia.