Handling the Media during Organizational Crisis
The Hyrax Investments Inc, an organization that deals with the importation and sale of cars to the local population has come under fire due to the allegations that it sells the cars to its consumers at a much exaggerated price. The people who ‘blew the whistle’ on the organization claim that they had compared the prices of the cars sold to them with the actual price in other dealers, and found out that Hyrax had sold the cars to them at a price inflated by about 10%. As the PR manager in the organization, I have to come up with a way to deal with the issue as it has already caught the attention of the media and they could be flooding to the company any time.
Looking at how the media handled the previous similar events, the organization has quiet a lot to worry about. For instance, the USA Today carried a story on the situation of the workers at Wal-Mart (Malcolm, 2012). The story went that the stores were making quite a lot but the employees were struggling to make the ends meet. The story argued that the workers were paid so little yet had to do a lot of work. It argues that the working conditions were bad and there was no way that the people could continue working as such. It indicated that the organization had failed in taking care of its employees.
Based on this evidence, I do not expect any better treatment from the media. Probably, they would blow the story out of proportion, and probably give false figures that cannot even be justified. They would claim that my organization deprives the people of their hard earned money. This would be quiet bad for the business as it would lead to the loss of customers. However, I tend to feel that all is not lost as yet. My organization could retain its public integrity by acting proactively. Rather than call wait for the press to come to us, we should go to them. We should organize a press conference where the issue would be clarified. Probably, it would be a good idea to include a few loyal customers who would declare before the press that they believe that our organization is credible. Through such an act, it would appear that those who spread the rumors are just business rivals who want to ruin our name so that they can prey on our clients. This could work better for us because if we wait for the media to come to us, there won’t be a chance for us to explain our situation.
The roles of public relations and public affairs in our situation are to make sure that the issue is handles to the satisfaction of the customers and the press. The aim is to make sure that the name of the organization is cleared from the accusations brought up against us. As Pohl (2008) observes, the PR and PA tend to function more or less in the same way as the advertising department. That is, they work around the clock to make sure that the credibility of the organization is maintained. They also have to make sure that the customers are well satisfied and have no doubt that the services and deals they get with us are the best. In the current situation, the job for these two departments is already cut out. Since some individuals have gone out and soiled the name of the organization, it is the responsibility of these two departments to make sure that they come out clear and explain to the people the matters as they stand. In this situation, the situation is so bad since the company has been accused of extortion. As such, the legal action can be taken against the offenders. By making them prove their arguments beyond reasonable doubts, it would be ascertained as to whether they are truthful or not. The PR and PA, in a bid to reassure the clients and prove to all that the accusations were wrong, could file a case in court on the issue. If they win the case, then this would be a clear picture that the accusations were false, and business would go on as normal for the organization since its credibility would not be affected.
In every organization, there is the kind of information that is open to all, and there is the information that remains as private to the organization. There is no way that such information can be revealed to their parties. Such information, for Hyrax Inc, could be the manner in which the pricing is done. Of course, the organization retains its right to privacy on how it goes about its operations. However, there are times – such as the present crisis- when there is the need to break some of the rules. The ethical issue involved in this case is that of honesty. If the organization sticks with the policy of privacy, then there is a possibility that the public could feel that there is something fishy going on, making the organization shy away from coming out clear. On the other hand, there is the risk of selling the company’s secrets to the business rivals by releasing its secrets in a bid to clear its name. As such, this issue would be best dealt with by releasing some of the information; much enough to prove the credibility of the organization, but so little that the rivals cannot steal business secrets. This, of course, is the responsibility of the PR and PA departments, they have to know how best to go about this.
According to Stoff (2011), most businesses are usually unprepared to handle crises. This is the reason as to why they tend to be run down when confronted by a communication crisis. However, I would not let the same happen to my organization. As the PR manager, I have to come up with the ways to save the face of the organization by preparing the press releases and press conferences. There are some elements that I must include in my communication. First of all, I have to cite the organization’s code of conduct which has it that no decisions should be made that tend to go against the regulations on how to handle customers. There is also the ISO certification that the company has, which serves to prove that the organization has been tried and tested, and proven to be integral. I would also point out the fact that the company publishes its annual returns in all the local press houses, which serves to prove that the organization has no unscrupulous deals. There are also some issues that I would have to leave out. For instance, I would not issue harsh words or threats to those who came up with the accusations. Rather, I would encourage them to come out clear and explain where they got their assumptions from. I would also request them to prove their claims by providing evidence beyond reasonable doubt. I would also not threaten to take them to court, but would categorically state that if they are not satisfied with my explanation, then the organization is ready to face them in a court of law and prove its innocence and integrity. Hopefully, this information would help to revive the face of the organization.
Stoff (2007) indicates that due to the unpreparedness of organizations to deal with a critical condition, most of them end up utilizing the wrong media channels, which ends up bringing even more confusion. Different people give different opinions, which end up contradicting against each other, hence working against the organization. To avoid such a scenario recurring in our organization, I will make sure that the right procedures are followed. First of all, I would have the members of the organization understand that they should not comment on the PR related issues to any media house; whether through interviews, phone calls or any form of contact. Rather, they should direct all the enquiries, especially those related to this crisis, to the PR and PA office. Within the office, I will organize for an information point where all the enquiries concerning PR issues will be handled. This will help in making sure that the information given is consistent, and that the ill-minded people would have no chance at tearing into the organization. Hopefully, this strategy will help to take u through this critical moment.
Malcolm, H. (2012). Scraping by at Wal-Mart. USA Today, 6th Aug. 2012. Retrieved on 22nd Nov. 2012 from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=fdffd723-04b8-49ea-8b65-33313e34fcbc%40sessionmgr115&vid=1&hid=105&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWlwLGNwaWQmY3VzdGlkPXM4ODU2ODk3JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&AN=J0E201503160412
Pohl, G.M. (2008). Public Relations Adding Business to Bottom Line. Journal of Promotion Management, Vol. 14(3/4), pp. 195-209. Retrieved on 22nd Nov. 2012 from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=faeb8d0b-24d1-4a8f-9bd9-a44281f0bd32%40sessionmgr115&vid=1&hid=105&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWlwLGNwaWQmY3VzdGlkPXM4ODU2ODk3JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&AN=44505598
Stoff, R. (2007). Crisis in Communications. St. Louis Journalism Review, Vol. 37(299), pp. 14-21. Retrieved on 22nd Nov. 2012 from http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=ceb11c37-4f50-487d-a823-fd15bd9fbe8a%40sessionmgr114&vid=1&hid=105&bdata=JkF1dGhUeXBlPWlwLGNwaWQmY3VzdGlkPXM4ODU2ODk3JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&AN=26650885