Most community associations have emergency preparedness plans in case of fires, floods, or hurricanes. But there’s one form of disaster that very few have an organized response for: the public relations disaster.
“It’s the lack of preparedness that’s really the undoing of most organizations in these cases,” says Gerry McCusker, a Melbourne, Australia-based reputation management consultant and author of the book “Public Relations Disasters: Talespin-Inside Stories & Lessones Learnt.” “Most organizations thought, ‘Well, that could never happen to us.’ ”
Having procedures in place to handlebad news should be right up there with installing smoke detectors and emergency exits, media consultants like McCusker say, because speed and accuracy are two main tools to help defuse bad PR – whether it comes in the form of a bedbug infestation, a lawsuit, or a headline-grabbing crime in the condo. In the age of Twitter, there’s no time to dither. You don’t want to still be deciding who the condo spokesperson is as reporters are showing up in the parking lot.
“When I was researching my book, all the experts agreed that the first 24 hours [of a crisis] were critical in how you responded,” McCusker says. People no longer have such a luxuriousamount of time to craft a response. “With social media, it’s the first two to four hours.”
“The No.1 rule is to get some kind of information out that’s factual and correct as fast as possible,” agrees Abbi Whitaker, founder and president of Abbi PR in Reno, Nevada. “The longeryou wait, the more speculation is going to grow.”