Going Public: PR Blogging Through Disaster

    July 19, 2006

Disaster can strike a business at any time. Despite an entrepreneur’s careful plans to handle any possible emergency, life has a way of throwing the odd curveball.

Sometimes those major issues feel like a hailstorm, and it’s landing right on your head. Of course, that’s only the beginning.

The phone is ringing off the hook with members of the news media wanting answers. Customers, creditors, and suppliers are suddenly into full panic mode about the solvency of the business. Even trusted staff members are quietly dusting off their resumes and making calls around the city about alternative employment. Somehow, the message has to get out to every stakeholder that like any storm, this too shall pass.

It’s time to post to your business blog and enter full scale public relations mode. This is not the moment to run away and not talk to anyone. While avoidance of the issues, and a distinct desire to stay clear of the news media are natural reactions for many people, not talking is precisely the wrong approach. Get to that keyboard and start blogging. Tell your side of the story as openly and honestly as possible. Establish a climate of mutual trust and respect with everyone involved.

When posting information about the disaster, it’s very important to get the facts out to everyone. Members of the media, clients, suppliers, creditors, and the general public will go to your business blog seeking your statements on what happened, and why. They will want to know your response to the situation, and a timetable for implementation of the planned solution. While not everything will be finalized at posting time, and plans may still be very preliminary, share as much information as possible. Transparency is a hallmark of blogging. During a crisis, it’s doubly important.

If you don’t provide the facts of the crisis, the information blanks will get filled in anyway. More often than not, rumours and wildly innacurate stories will begin to circulate. If no word appears from your offices, people will suspect the worst. They may even accuse you of trying to hide something. It’s your responsibility to the company, and to the public at large, to set the facts straight.

Address each issue openly and honestly. Don’t hide from the false stories that always seem to circulate in any disaster situation. Discuss those rumours as well. It’s up to you to fill in the blank spaces with the company side of the story, as truthfully as possible. Snowjobs and falsehoods won’t hold up for long, and are best avoided at all costs. They destroy your trust and credibility, and will make the situation even worse.

With your PR blog, you can update the problems and possible solutions in real time; as they happen. At the speed of the computer, your side of the story can be around the world. Because a blog is a fluid and open medium, there is no upper limit on the number of posts that can appear on the matter at hand. Every new piece of information can be added to the blog, fresh from the old drawing board. Keeping the blog comments open will facilitate questions from readers, and provide opportunities for more indepth discussions, of the latest turn of events.

Instead of keeping the media, other interested parties, and public in the dark, the blog lets the light shine in on the problem. Once discussed openly and honestly, it won’t seem quite as serious any longer. Solutions will be seen as being on the way. The openess and transparency of the blog, combined with your willingness to openly discuss the issues, will enhance the reputation of your company. Honest answers are not always forthcoming from every business. Your public relations blogging effort will set your company apart from the pack, and build your business and personal reputation.

When the crisis passes, as they inevitibly do, your transparency and open lines of communication will provide a solid foundation for a recovery. Instead of suspicion, your company will receive community support. In many cases, the business may even be strengthened by surviving the ordeal. Your PR blog will deserve much of the credit for that reputation enhancement

The sun will indeed come out tomorrow.

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Wayne Hurlbert provides insigtful information about marketing, promotions, search engine optimization and public relations for websites and business blogs on the popular Blog Business World.

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