Business PR

How do you handle and overcome a PR crisis?

Posted by Deborah | January 19th, 2015 | 1 Response

Most of us will have seen the debacle that ensued at the weekend, when Eurostar passengers were left stranded…and livid.

The issue took hold on Saturday when a fire occurred on a Eurotunnel vehicle. It led to a closed link, cancelled trains and thousands wondering how they’d ever get to their destination. Social media naturally became the source for anger and frustration, with disappointed school groups, executives and holidaymakers complaining about a lack of information and little sympathy from Eurostar.

What makes the matter so much worse, is this:

Yes, it was only back in 2009 that Eurostar said it would have to face up to its unfortunate PR and make changes, after chaos and disruption took hold that Christmas due to bad weather. At the time, it said its crisis communications would be reviewed and that it would implement measures like a 24 hour call centre and emergency coach services.

Did those happen this time…..alas, it seems not.

Now no-one is arguing here about the cause of the weekend’s travel-hassle, but it’s pretty clear that where Eurostar still need to carry blame is for not learning and remedying from its previous PR crisis.

So, here’s top five tips on dealing with, and overcoming, a PR crisis:

1. Know your facts before you plough in

It’s vital to ensure you are fully up to speed on what has happened (to the best of your ability), why, and what the implications are. Getting in front of the media and delivering any kind of PR approach without that is foolhardy at best

2. Show empathy and understanding

It’s amazing what good will compassion and understanding gains you in most cases. Recognise you are dealing with individual’s lives / plans / hopes, and that whatever you consider to be the ‘hassle’ of your PR issue, they too are feeling aggrieved

3. Be proactive and offer solutions

This is the important bit. You can’t show sympathy and yet do nothing. Gather those around you who you know can help you implement solutions and ensure that everyone is playing their part in turning the situation on its head

4. Keep communicating

Whether to the press or to the public directly – if you go quiet, you breed doubt and disgust. By nature we like to be kept informed. Make sure you deploy whatever resource necessary to keep people up to speed with what you are doing, how this affects them and what they can expect by what timeline

5. Review and reflect

Even when the storm has faded, you haven’t won the war yet. You must MUST review practices and plan for better in the future. Use this as your opportunity to communicate to the media as well as to the public direct, just what you’ve learned and what you will do differently. Then – unlike Eurostar – stick to it!


One Response to How do you handle and overcome a PR crisis?

  • Tony says:

    It is no surprise that Eurostar’s failed 2015 response was essentially identical to multiple major “incidents” since 2009.
    There are twin root causes. :

    1.) Top Eurostar management clearly doesn’t “get it”.
    As such:
    2.) Eurostar was again logistically and technically unprepared.

    — No amount of in-event and post-event spin can change these two hard facts.
    Just having a Twitter account won’t fix it. Nor will the delusional belief that “we did all we could”.

    A single Customer Service policy/system should automatically (via text or email) offer and apply prescribed lodging credit to ferry/airline connections and transit rail passage expenses (ie. taxis reimbursement) for all stranded Eurostar passengers . This would cost no more than paying for London + Paris area hotels and taxis. Include online booking support for the water/air option and be prepared to add an extra ferry or two as needed. Obviously, people should also be offered the hotel option.

    To really get it right, Eurostar should train and deploy ample, emergency logistic teams to the Calais and Dover ferry ports. Ground transport (coaches) should be contracted (in advance) and at-the-ready for port-to-platform transit. (Remember, those ports are not equipped to handle such a dense influx of foot traffic.) A few extra domestic “special” trains in France and Britain shouldn’t be an obstacle.

    Still, Eurostar’s history is to hide behind “policy”, never planning for, or offering, legitimate Customer Service. Ladbrokes could post odds that the next technical or weather crisis will not being so poorly mismanaged, but the possibility of Eurostar getting it right is only slightly greater than swine playing chess.

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