3 things to do when a crisis strikes

How to handle the fallout before negativity goes viral

Sara Rush Wirth, Senior Editor

crisis recovery

Whether dealing with food contamination (like Chipotle’s recent E. coli and norovirus troubles) or simply an angry guest, negative PR can put an operation’s image—and bottom line—at risk. Experts agree: Developing a protocol before disaster strikes—especially in today’s social media-fueled world—is crucial, says Ellen Hartman, CEO of Hartman Public Relations. Here are three steps to follow—fast—in the face of crisis.

1. Get your message out first

The first response should be to accept and admit that the incident happened and assure customers you are taking measures to find out more, says Linda Duke, CEO of Duke Marketing. And this should happen quickly, says Rick Van Warner, president of consulting firm The Parquet Group. “Our rule of thumb is no later than 15 minutes from the time you learn something happens,” he says.

2. Be consistent, contrite and concise

Van Warner says operators shouldn’t be afraid to update social channels with the same statement they are using for the media and internal stakeholders. “Be consistent, keep it simple and be sure to put the human concern and appropriate sympathy for any victims first,” he says.

3. Monitor social media

After issuing the initial statement, it’s important to stay an active part of the conversation. Extremely negative comments and posts can be removed and blocked, says Van Warner, but he cautions operators to be careful in getting too aggressive with deletions to avoid looking like they’re hiding something.

—A version of this article appeared in the December issue of Restaurant Business, FSD’s sister publication.

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