Ad Agencies Tips for Dealing with a Crisis

According to the Institute for Crisis Management, the majority of crises are of the “smoldering” type, meaning that a potentially damaging condition is known to one or more people.

Less than 25% are events that occur suddenly with little warning, such as natural disasters and accidents.

If something is smoldering at your agency or with one of your clients, deal with it now because chances are it won’t go away and may get much worse if neglected.

When a crisis strikes, those charged with managing it should have three primary objectives:

  1. Maintain control of the message
  2. Minimize damage
  3. Achieve accurate and balanced coverage through the news media and Internet

Having managed communications in a variety of crisis situations over the years, the following are tips I’ve found that apply to any crisis:

•       Tell what you know and can legally disclose as soon as possible.

•       Tell the truth.

•       Demonstrate concern for those affected.

•       Emphasize the positive, when appropriate. For example, if you’re dealing with layoffs, emphasize how many jobs are being   saved by this action and explain what your company is doing to help those who are losing their jobs.

•       Give updates as soon as new information is available and confirmed.

•       Seek third-party support to add credibility to your position.

How well your team manages a crisis, especially in the early stages, could affect your organization’s credibility and reputation for month or even years.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

 

Ad Agencies: Face Reality When Dealing with a Crisis

When I was growing up in Indiana, one of my friends and neighbors was a boy named Billy.  We were both around ten years old at the time.  One day Billy was playing with matches in his bedroom and set the curtains on fire.  He tried putting the fire out, but its flames quickly spread.  Billy was so overwhelmed by the situation that he walked out of his room, closed the door and started watching TV in the living room.

For a few minutes, he didn’t have to deal with the awful reality of what he had done, and he was able to go about life as usual. 

However, it wasn’t long before the entire house was engulfed in flames.  Fortunately he and his family escaped, but the house burned to the ground.

When I tell that story, people usually are amazed at such irresponsible behavior, and rightfully so.  Yet, I find that many companies with intelligent, well-educated leaders often take the same approach to dealing with a crisis in their organization.

Rather than face reality, they try to ignore the crisis or put a lid on it.

More often than not, the crisis grows and becomes consuming, and in the process devours valuable time and resources.  Sometimes the organization’s reputation is severely harmed, and out of the ashes investigations suddenly appear.

The pity is that engaging the crisis in its early stages would have made it more manageable and less damaging.

As Henry Kissinger once said, “A problem ignored is a crisis invited.”

One of the most important things an ad agency can do in a crisis situation is help its client see the reality of the situation and what needs to be done.  

The agency also needs to help the client keep the situation in perspective and focus on the long term. 

It’s easy to panic and develop a siege mentality when an organization in crisis is under intense scrutiny from the outside, but that only makes matters worse. 

Properly managing the crisis is vital, because facts alone don’t win in the court of public opinion—perceptions do.

One of the best ways to help you and your clients maintain control and minimize damage when a crisis strikes is to have a flexible crisis management plan in place. 

An effective crisis plan:

  • Contemplates the types of crises that could occur
  • Sets forth policies to deal with them
  •  Identifies audiences
  • Has a pre-selected crisis management team in place
  • Establishes ways to communicate accurate information quickly and effectively

If your agency or your clients don’t have a written crisis plan, now is a great time to create one.  If you have plan, be sure it is updated regularly.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

Toyota’s Crisis Management Has Lessons for Ad Agencies

Someday, how Toyota has handled its vehicle acceleration crisis will make an interesting case study. 

As I suspect is the case with a lot of people, I haven’t paid close attention the company’s recalls.  Mainly, I’ve heard bits and pieces.  And therein lies a big part of the company’s image problem:  Regardless of what Toyota is doing now, what people remember most are news stories about occupants who died or were injured while their cars careened out of control. 

One reported incident is particularly memorable to me:  A frantic 911 call from a police officer saying the brakes on his Lexus didn’t work.  While still talking with the operator, he and his passengers went over an embankment and their vehicle burst into flames.  The call ended with the passengers telling each other to pray. 

Whatever exculpatory facts may exist in Toyota’s favor, and no matter how many ads the company runs demonstrating concern, the mental image of people dying in cars they couldn’t stop is impossible to overcome. 

Adding to the company’s woes, the Associated Press today reported that for years Toyota has blocked access to data stored in the vehicles themselves.  This data, which is stored in devices similar to the “black boxes” used on airplanes, could provide useful information about crashes that were blamed on sudden unintended accelerations. 

When there is an appearance of a cover up by a company involved in a crisis, especially when lives have been lost, the negative perceptions can be devastating. 

Toyota has long had a reputation for quality, and my reliable old Corolla was one of the best vehicles I’ve ever owned.  But as things stand now, I would never buy a Toyota product again. 

Ad agencies advising clients embroiled in a crisis need to remember that the best ads and PR efforts to communicate what the company is doing to fix the problem and make amends will ring hollow if it doesn’t back up words with deeds. 

 Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

Tiger Woods Fiasco Has Important Lessons for Ad Agencies

Until now, I’ve resisted weighing in on Tiger Woods’ marital woes. Like a lot of people, I already know more about his escapades than I wish I did. Still, there are some important lessons ad agencies can glean from this fiasco.

I can’t recall ever seeing a person’s reputation fall so quickly and dramatically, followed closely by sponsors dropping this hot potato left and right.

I found it interesting that earlier this month Ad Age ran a story saying some people in the sports-marketing industry were speculating that Tiger’s newfound notoriety “might actually redound to the benefit of the brands he endorses.”

One PR expert suggested Tiger could rebound if he and his wife stay together and he keeps winning. Apparently, winning covers a multitude of sins, at least according to this line of reasoning.

Well, it hasn’t quite turned out that way for Tiger, and now there are question as to whether he will ever play golf again professionally.

One of the most obvious lessons to be learned is that in a crisis, stonewalling doesn’t work very well. Especially when you’re someone famous, the media will dig out the truth and put you in a reactive mode.

A second lesson is the risk companies take in sponsoring an individual. When Tiger’s favorability ranting in 2000 was the highest in poll history at 88%, having a close corporate tie no doubt seemed like a good idea. In the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, his favorability dropped to 33% — a 55-point swing from his peak.

Perhaps the most important lesson, though, is that in an age when tolerance reins supreme, there still are some things most people won’t tolerate from celebrities, and repeatedly cheating on one’s spouse with multiple partners is one of them.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

Ad Agencies Can Benefit from PR Executives’ Advice for Managing a Crisis

Pacific Business News recently asked 13 executives in Hawaii to recall a PR challenge they once faced and what advice they have for other companies, based on what they learned.  Their stories can be found here: http://cl.exct.net/?qs=d3a3ed404ed8ac7375cba8f825bf196fcbb167cc8db9fb17e7c7dde43d3bdde4

One of the consistent themes is the importance of advanced planning and preparation, so it’s not surprising that in the same issue there’s an article titled “Crisis management: It’s all about preparation.” http://pacific.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2009/04/20/focus1.html?b=1240200000^1813824

The crisis management article discusses how agencies can be a reality check for their clients.  In a crisis situation, objective third-party PR professionals can provide an invaluable service by helping clients keep things in perspective and avoid making costly mistakes.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

 

Crisis Management: 8 Characteristics of a Crisis Ad Agencies Need to Know

 Burson-Marsteller identifies 8 characteristics of a crisis:

  1. Surprise
  2. Insufficient information
  3. Escalating flow of events
  4. Loss of control
  5. Intense scrutiny from the outside
  6. Siege mentality
  7. Panic
  8. Short-term focus

 (Source: Burson-Marsteller)

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

 

Crisis Management: Ad Agency Objectives When a Crisis Hits

When a crisis strikes your agency or one of your clients, those charged with managing it should have three primary objectives:

  1. Maintain control of the message
  2. Minimize damage
  3. Achieve accurate and balanced coverage through the news media and Internet

 Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

 

Crisis Management: Plan Helps Ad Agencies Identify Real Problem

“Think of a crisis plan as a flashlight:  It doesn’t solve the immediate problem (the lights went out,) but it helps people find their way in the dark so they can discover the real problem – a blown fuse, a tripped circuit or a downed power line – and then begin to solve it.”

– Steven Fink, author, Crisis Management

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

 

Crisis Management: Ad Agencies Need a Written Crisis Plan

One of the best ways to help you and your clients maintain control and minimize damage when a crisis strikes is to have a flexible crisis management plan in place.

 An effective crisis plan:

  • Contemplates the types of crises that could occur
  • Sets forth policies to deal with them
  • Identifies audiences
  • Has a pre-selected crisis management team in place
  • Establishes ways to communicate accurate information quickly and effectively

If your agency or your clients don’t have a written crisis plan, now is a great time to create one.  If you have plan, be sure it is updated regularly.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

Crisis Management: Ad Agencies Should Do a Reality Check

One of the most important things an ad agency can do in a crisis situation is help its client see the reality of the situation and what needs to be done.

The agency also needs to help the client keep the situation in perspective and focus on the long term.

 It’s easy to panic and develop a siege mentality when an organization in crisis is under intense scrutiny from the outside, but that only makes matters worse.

 Properly managing the crisis is vital, because facts alone don’t win in the court of public opinion—perceptions do.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.