Responding to a PR Crisis

When you’re growing a business, it is almost inevitable that you’ll eventually face some form of public relations crisis.

There is plenty of business advice available about how to react when the crisis is a result of your own doing. However, it can be difficult to know what to do when the crisis is caused by an unrelated company on the other side of the planet!

This is exactly what happened to UK Dry Herb Vaporizer business, Vape Elevate, formally Dank Vapes.

In the summer of 2019, a mysterious vaping illness was causing hundreds of people to fall ill. After a nationwide investigation, the illness was linked to a company who was selling illicit vaping cartridges. Unfortunately for Vape Elevate, this illicit company shared its brand name; Dank Vapes.

Eventually, the story reached the UK and needless to say Vape Elevate eventually had a crisis on their hands.

We spoke to Cara Robinson, Head of Customer Experience at Vape Elevate, formally Dank Vapes to learn from her experience.

Be Proactive – not reactive!

Being proactive is something Cara regrettably didn’t do. Her team had noticed the potential bad publicity in June 2019 when the story began to surface.

Initially, Vape Elevate decided to ignore it because it was happening in the USA. The problem appeared to be a world away and their sales were unaffected.

Unfortunately for them, the news eventually did reach the UK. By then it was too late as Cara recollects: “By the time we decided to take action, our company was already being confused with a company that was responsible for hundreds of people falling ill”.

If Cara and here team had taken some preemptive action to reassure their customers they may have been able to mitigate some of the confusion.

Stay Positive

We a business you are responsible for is undergoing a serious crisis it can be difficult to keep cool and not panic. Cara says it was especially important that she demonstrated she was able to turn this difficult situation around. She notes: “Your team will look to their leader as a source of energy to draw from. It is important that you only exude positivity

In difficult times, this is especially true. Your team will likely be working long hours, be low on sleep and facing high levels of stress. Just reminding them that the business will pull through because they’re great at what they do is often enough to make a difference.

Get some sleep!

At the height of the crisis, sleep was the last thing on Cara’s mind. Over the crisis period she was averaging 3 hours sleep a night.

However, eventually this took its toll. By day 10, the lack of sleep was affecting her ability to make decisions, she was also making silly mistakes.

It may sound counter productive, especially in a crisis, but taking an hour to relax before you go to bed will help you switch off and get to sleep.

Your business needs you at your best and you’re at your best when you have had a full night’s rest.

Be prepared to manage social media

Social Media was a part of the business that Cara regrets neglecting.

She recalls the big lesson it taught her team: “Just because your business isn’t on social media, it doesn’t mean your customers are not!”

Vape Elevate’s neglected profiles were bombarded with accusations, questions and confused customers.

If these accounts were being managed effectively, they would have been able to respond to customers and delete abusive and slanderous commentary.

Create a plan and ensure everyone is on board

Inevitably, you and your team will come up with a plan of action.

For Vape Elevate, it meant changing the changing the brand. Cara was upset to let go of the brand she had built from the ground up, but it was a case of short term pain for long term gain.

As soon as the decision was made, she pulled her team together and communicated the decision.

Only after confirming every team member on board were they able to all pitch in and rebrand within 72 hours. By acting quickly there were able to effectively minimise the damage caused by the crisis despite their previous mistakes.