In today’s 24/7 news cycle, it seems companies and organizations are facing crisis situations more often. Yesterday, popular clothing retailer H&M began coping with a crisis threatening the brand’s reputation and contradicting a corporate policy.
According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, a student in New York found bags of brand new, yet slashed clothes that had been thrown out near an H&M store. A spokeswoman for H&M said it was corporate policy to donate unworn clothes to charitable organizations, yet these clothes seemed to be ripped apart on purpose. The Huffington Post picked up the article, as well as dozens of mainstream and blog outlets, and comments on H&M’s social media sites have turned against the company.
Because this crisis threatens the integrity of the organization, it is the role of the public relations practitioner to guide the organization to a resolution. So, what do you do in such a situation?
I pulled out a checklist I received from Kelly Rossman-McKinney, APR, Fellow PRSA, CEO of the Rossman Group, an issues management firm in Lansing, Mich. Kelly serves as Michigan State University PRSSA’s Professional Advisor and gave our Chapter advice on how to respond to a crisis. Below are 10 principles to remember while executing a communications plan:
- Choose a messenger that is credible, such as the CEO.
- Make sure your message fits the context and the environment in which you are located.
- Make sure your message is relevant to your audience.
- Craft a clear, simple, straightforward message that will be long-lasting.
- The continuity and consistency of the message is key for audience penetration.
- Choose the correct channels and tools to communicate to your audience.
- Answer the question in every consumer’s head: “What’s in it for me?”
- Make sure your audience knows you care about the situation.
- Be sure to create a message your audience can understand.
- Have a clear call to action. What is the audience supposed to do now?
If you were heading up H&M’s corporate communications department, how would you respond to the situation? Keep in mind the principles above as you discuss a possible plan of action.