Not everything that large corporations do is relevant to small businesses. The PR plans and policies of multinational companies may be far different from yours. However, no matter how small and obscure your business is, social media puts everyone on the radar, and bad PR can cause your mistakes to go viral.
Here are some important PR lessons you can learn from large corporations.
1. Be Transparent
One of the most important things to understand in the Internet age is that no business, whether large or small, can cover up their mistakes. There are no secrets. Any story from any part of the world can get out of control and go viral on the Internet.
In 2011, the PR agency Burson-Marsteller tried to cover up the fact that Facebook hired it to circulate anti-Google stories. Instead, the situation blew up in the media, causing the PR firm to lose credibility.
In 2010, Toyota tried to ignore customer safety and pretend it knew nothing about flaws in the braking system of the Prius. When the cover-up was exposed, Toyota's PR took a nosedive from which it was very difficult to recover. Take it for granted that everything you do is subject to public scrutiny, and make your PR decisions with that in mind.
2. Admit Your Mistakes
Every reputable company tries to avoid serious error, but sometimes mistakes happen. When they do, it is imperative that you accept responsibility and work to repair the damage, not only to the reputation of your business, but to any customers that were put at risk.
In 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened in the Gulf of Mexico, the BP CEO arrived soon afterward on the scene. However, before he arrived he tried to minimize the severity of the spill, which turned out to be the worst oil spill in United States history. Then he stated how he was personally inconvenienced, rather than express sympathy for the families of the 11 dead oil rig workers.
Perhaps the disaster was so great that no quick fix could have ameliorated the damage, but instead of BP's contractors blaming each other in hearings, the company should have shouldered the blame and shown the public that it was doing its best to fix the problem. As a small business, your mistakes will be nowhere near as great, but the same principles apply.
3. Stay Positive
Accentuating the features of your product or service that consumers will find attractive is the best way to use PR to grow your business. Attacking your competitors with negative advertising has the potential for turning on your business in a big way. Rather than tarnish your competitors' reputations, which, when exposed, is likely to cast your business as the villain and cause you to appear distasteful in the eyes of consumers, promote your own services and skills. There are no better PR images than honesty, transparency, positivity, and the willingness to admit and fix your mistakes.
How your company handles publicity will be a decisive moment for your customers and potential customers who want to do business with trustworthy sources. By learning from these large company’s mistakes, your business will be better prepared to present itself as honest and transparent, even in the face of potentially bad situations.