Marketers: Here’s Your Plan for Surviving Any PR Disaster

I wrote a piece a few years ago, focused on the fuel emissions scandal at Volkswagen. In the end, I predicted that 18 months from publication date Volkswagen’s scandal would be forgotten partly because so many other PR disasters would come and go. Subsequently, United Airlines, Uber, Pepsi and even Fox News have done their best to prove me right.

No matter how good you are or how trusted your brand is today, no one’s immune from a PR crisis forever. However, with the right stewardship, you can navigate through to the other side, without sustaining too much damage to your brand. Here’s my recommended 7 point action plan:


It’s important to recognize the problem right away. Being silent or slow to communicate with the outside world can do more harm to the brand than good. Cop to the problem frankly and you may avoid secondary scandals like BP CEO’s comment “I’d like my life back” or United CEO’s apology for having to “re-accommodate these customers“.


Setting up an independent investigation as well as a task force–of a maximum of four people–with a full mandate to act on behalf of the brand while the crisis unfolds can speed up your response to the unfolding situation.

The task force should be able to act without internal bureaucracy and, most importantly, quickly enough to keep up with the press and social media. Begin analyzing the search keywords, articles, and social media discussions in order to gain an hour-by-hour understanding of what the public really thinks of you. Without it, your company won’t know which messages to focus on and which to stay away from.

Read the rest of this piece on LinkedIn.


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