Using Workforce Management Insights to Respond to a PR Blunder

Employees and managers answer phones after a PR blunder at their organization.

PR blunders can happen, but there are ways to help prevent them from becoming PR crises.

A bad PR blunder can cost a firm millions. With the advent of social media, the near-professional quality of cell phone cameras and the virtual ubiquity of personal devices, employees behaving badly can be readily captured and disseminated to the masses — i.e., go viral, in two to three hours. Working to prevent such instances is key. However, ensuring proper employee training is provided, having applicable procedures and policies in place and conducting crisis simulations can help your finance leaders prepare for these unexpected events when they do occur.

How can finance leaders work with HR to ensure proper employee training is done to prepare for PR blunders? What documents, procedures and policies should the organization have in place? How do crisis simulations help prepare for unexpected events?

Proper Employee Training

According to Human Resource Executive, by helping employees create certain habits of good judgment and providing them with clear, transparent training on criteria and protocol, organizations will experience a lower level of outrage, less litigation and fewer stories. As a finance leader partnering with HR, you cannot plan for everything. However, running what-if scenarios and periodically surveying your employees can identify the procedural and training gaps that could cause issues in the future. You can then address these gaps with the appropriate firm-wide or group-specific training.

According to the ADP Research Institute® report, Strategic Drift: How HR Plans for Change, organizational training policies — or the lack thereof — are at least partly responsible for the skills shortages that are evident today.

Applicable Procedures and Policies

Human Resource Executive notes that policies and procedures are excellent tools. But when they override an employee's good judgment, as was the case in a few nationally renowned corporate PR gaffs, this means that the existing policies are excessively stringent. Employees must be screened, trained and then encouraged to exercise good judgment.

Furthermore, management must allow some leeway in which employees can do so. Management who strictly enforce policies will not allow their staff to deviate. Therefore, in addition to modifying rigid policies, businesses must empower supervisors to be comfortable with minor policy and procedure deviations within a safe range.

Crisis Simulations as Preparation

According to The Wall Street Journal, organizations must begin with a purpose, not a scenario, when designing a simulation. The approach will then vary depending on the purpose and could range from a discussion of what-if scenarios to an intense, immersive and life-like stressful event. In addition, for an actual simulation to be a real learning exercise, it must be highly realistic, and what is at issue must be real. When employees and management successfully work through a crisis simulation that is full of ambiguity and conflicting information, this process builds confidence and team cohesiveness, leaving all involved feeling prepared to handle whatever comes their way.

A major PR blunder can wreak havoc on a business's finances by resulting in lost customers, expensive litigation and damaged credibility. By leveraging the insights noted above, you reduce the likelihood of any policy having serious negative repercussions for you. In other words, you provide the environment, training and scenarios that ultimately empower employees to make critical decisions as second nature. Thus, you prevent a PR blunder from becoming a PR crisis.