Negative pr has always been a thorn in the side of those of us who work hard building and protecting the reputations of Jewish organizations that do good work and put a high value on maintaining the trust of their constituents.
Yet, from time to time, even the most highly respected organization is faced with a situation that has the potential to seriously damage its reputation. I know because I have had to handle my share of negative pr situations over the course of my career. It’s never fun, difficult to get through and yet, if you follow the time-tested protocols for dealing with a pr “crisis,” you will get beyond the storm. The best “crisis pr” advice I ever heard was from Howard Rubenstein, the venerable crisis pr maven, who always started with “be prepared before a crisis strikes and always tell the truth as quickly as possible.”
So with the blogsphere now a legitimate, mainstream source of information, what must organizations do to be sure those writing about them get it right and how does an organization stay on top of the blog world to know what is being said?
Here are a few thoughts, but please add yours to the conversation.
First, know your blogging world. Make sure someone in your organization is tuned into and routinely reading the posts of the bloggers who write about topics related to your work, your organization and your people.
Second, get friendly with important bloggers. That does not mean send them a hundred press releases. Rather, find out who they are, what their interests are, there topics of focus, how respected they are and who is reading their posts. Then, when appropriate and not too often, offer a thoughtful comment on a post. Better to build a relationship by offering value than try in a crisis to win over an attacker.
Third, if you are on the receiving end of a negative blog and have completed steps 1 & 2 (using Howard’s advice to be prepared), ask yourself and your leaders, is this an accurate statement. If it is, go back to your tried and true negative pr manual, and get yourselves out there with an honest statement and an explanation of what you are doing to correct the situation. Do not hide! Engage in the conversation. Post on the comments section of the blog. Use your web site to expand your explanation if appropriate.
Fourth, if the post is inaccurate, ask for a retraction (politely) and offer supporting evidence. If you get no response, as a last resort, consider using the comments section to respond. Get in touch with competitive sources/bloggers/ forum leaders to correct the facts. Add a statement to your web site if the situation warrants it.
Fifth, take a deep breath, go back to steps 1 & 2 and renew your efforts.