Major brands and public figures have had their share of public relations crises throughout the years. Some particularly image tarnishing crises include the Deep Horizon oil spoll, Chris Brown’s assault of Rihanna, and Tiger Woods’ countless infidelities.
Whether a client sinks or swims following a crisis can largely depend on how their public relation’s team chooses to handle the incident.
A blog that discusses crisis public relations listed five steps for handling a crisis as a PR professional. The five steps were: addressing the crisis immediately after it happens, being honest about the incident, sharing information, showing that you care about those that have been affected by the crisis and maintaining two-way communication between the client and the public.
It can appear to the public that there is something to be covered up if a brand does not come forward immediately and talk about a crisis. Often, being honest and admitting to and apologizing for mistakes will get forgiveness from the public. Assuming a defensive position can be damaging to a brand by making them seem unapologetic and selfish.
An article from Entrepreneur.com suggests not scripting an apology, but instead delivering something sincere rather than an apology that is drawn-out and rambled.
Recently, Rick Ross was heavily scrutinized for song lyrics that many people believe allude to drugging a woman with the drug known as “molly” and raping her. The lyrics are from his song U.O.E.N.O and go, “”Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it. I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.” The rapper apologized twice, but both apologies were widely received as insincere.
First, Ross apologized by tweeting: “I dont condone rape. Apologies for the #lyric interpreted as rape. #BOSS” Then, he tweeted apologizing to his business partners after the public pressured Reebok to drop their endorsement with Rick Ross. The second apology read: “Apologies to my many business partners,who would never promote violence against women. @ReebokClassics @ultraviolet”
Ross made some mistakes with his apologies. First, apologizing solely over Twitter is impersonal and gives the impression that the issue is not of pressing importance to him. Second, he doesn’t do a very good job of making the public feel like he understands their concerns and is sorry that they were offended.
Ross is just one of many celebrities or brands who have not handled a PR crisis properly, whether it is by his own fault or that of his PR team. PR crises are going to happen and are sometimes unavoidable, but acting quickly and being honest, open and sincere can save a client’s image.