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Waiting For a PR Crisis Is Like Wearing a Bullseye On Your Back. Here Are Some Proactive Steps You Can Take That Could Save Your Brand. A PR misstep or outright crisis is becoming increasingly common. Regardless of the years open, entrepreneurs, startups and businesses must start preparing and building a solid public reputation for their companies. Reputations can be threatened or severely damaged instantly, and likely out of no fault of your own. Prepare now.

By Adam Horlock Edited by Maria Bailey

Key Takeaways

  • Why you shouldn't wait for a PR crisis.
  • Take these first steps to building a PR portfolio.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

A new brand or an existing brand decides to rebrand. Strategy is implemented, growth begins, employees are hired, and growing pains begin. Consistency is maintained by staying on core messaging, social media audiences and impressions grow, and some PR is even generated. Current customers start to advocate for the brand, help promote, and perhaps believe and partake in any social or philanthropic causes the brand represents or helps support. All the boxes are getting checked, right?

Until one day, it happens. An employee makes a misstep or big blunder, and somehow, it's now on social media. A c-suite executive makes a near-fatal decision on the brand that the core audience dramatically disapproves of, and sales begin to drop fast. An accident occurs thanks to a vendor of your business, but somehow, your business gets pulled into the controversy. Neglect in accounting, or worse, surfaces and funds are missing or removed, directly impacting clients and the company. Sound familiar? The horror stories continue to mount every week. Like identity theft, a PR crisis happens quickly and unexpectedly, takes hard-earned money away, and severely damages reputations.

Related: A 3-Step Plan for Handling Any PR Crisis

Build PR now

Millions now take preventative measures to prevent identity theft for themselves and their businesses. Monitoring services have exploded in recent years, preventive action can be taken, and it is commonplace to dispute charges, refute actions caused by hacking or other means; and most understand how this can happen, and it is not the fault of the individual or business.

In the same way, reputation monitoring services have also exploded in growth. Most understand that a negative Google review, social media posts or other online statements may be untrue. Many try to speak up on behalf of a targeted individual or business. While plenty will pile on and try to create more drama and unnecessary rumors, most dismiss or recount a positive experience with the individual or company.

What is the best way to build preventative measures against potential PR missteps? Start building PR now. Without PR, the only story the public knows is the misstep or controversy. It is the first search result on Google, the first impression on social media, and nothing else is available for the public to consume. By gaining some PR before something happens, at least there is a portfolio of content and articles on your brand before any PR mishaps.

First steps to building a PR portfolio

Many assume their brand speaks for itself, or founders prefer to avoid drawing attention to themselves through PR; instead, they want to focus on raising capital or getting in front of new customers. The daily grind of running the business takes a lot of time, and long hours are already dedicated to business growth.

Entrepreneurs and founders are not politicians (most of the time) and do not think about public image other than the success of their brand. Nonetheless, we are all human, and we hire humans. Mishaps and chaos will happen.

The first step to building a solid PR portfolio is to utilize key and core messaging strategies already developed. It is incredible how many brands spend on building a core strategy that is never implemented. From there, start creating small wins in PR, even if it is not the day's lead story. Small expansions in services, adding to an existing product line, or even sponsoring a youth sports league are all solid wins that can be leveraged into more extensive media attention.

Build on small wins. New hires, new community involvement, first full year in business — keep getting the brand's story out there, even if it is through a limited press release that is only picked up by a few media outlets. While careful to stay on topics with some newsworthy value, continuous PR coverage of what's right and working will help deflect when things go wrong.

From there, keep reinforcing that the brand strives to be a solution-oriented organization that continuously helps solve problems for your customer base. Significant PR wins will follow, and if the PR nightmare does happen, the media and the public will see a PR portfolio of growth, achievement, services and above all — humans trying to work together to build a business or organization — flaws and all.

Overall, suppose the brand is built and viewed as a solution-oriented market leader or influencer, and a portfolio of good work and PR is created. In that case, the missteps and possible nightmares are easier to push through. It used to be said that the first 24 hours were the worst, and while that still holds, in most cases, it can continue longer and more painfully if an ongoing PR campaign is not a part of overall marketing efforts.

Adam Horlock

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Chief Operating Officer, Edit Media Consulting

Adam Horlock is the Chief Operating Officer for Edit Media Consulting. His agency offers PR, social media and business consulting services to brands nationally. He has made numerous media appearances and continues to be a resource for entrepreneurs nationwide.

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