This story, Troubled Waters, is featured in this month's issue of Essence magazine. As I was reading the story I cringed at the responses from the government agencies quoted.
The responses were so far from what should have been, but are so typical of government agencies and possibly some corporations. These responses are partially responsible for the lack of trust that the public has of government, corporations, celebrities and PR pros. These are the responses we need to ensure our clients do not give.
As PR professionals we must provide sound PR advice by training our clients to:
1. Refrain from finger pointing. Responses to issues should never result in placing blame on someone else. Instruct your clients to address the role they played in the mishap and how they plan to correct the problem and ensure it doesn't happen again.
2. Be proactive. Don't wait for complaints to come, anticipate them and adjust your policies or operations when it makes sense to do so. Make sure you account for costs that you will incur, and honestly determine if you can make the adjustments and if it is worth doing it (i.e., is it in the best interest of the company and the customer). If so, figure out how to adjust accordingly.
The lesson. Be prepared to educate. As a public relations professional you will have to educate senior management, staff and customers. Determine how to effectively educate each audience and then do it.