Unfortunately, all salon owners are likely to deal with some sort of public relations crisis at some point. The key to getting through these situations is to be prepared for them before they happen. That means having an airtight public relations crisis management plan.
Wondering what your PR crisis management plan should include? We’ve got you covered. This quick guide will walk you through how to manage damage control when a PR crisis arises.
Get Ahead of the Story
As soon as you hear about a potential crisis situation, gather all the information you can.
You will need to act fast.
If the crisis situation happened in the salon, talk to everyone who was there when the incident occurred. Get as many sides of the story as possible.
If the crisis is playing out online or in the media, read and view all the information being posted. Reach out to the people creating and contributing to the conversation and politely ask them to talk. Never assume your correspondence will be kept private. (Screenshots are a thing.)
When you speak with anyone, keep your emotions in check and don’t allow yourself to be baited into reacting poorly. If you aren’t capable of controlling yourself, task someone else with handling those communications.
The more information you have, the better you’ll be able to shape the narrative, which will help keep the story from getting out of your control.
Once you’ve gathered all the information about the incident, reach out to those involved and politely ask them to talk. If you can, get them to talk in person, but if not, engage via email so there is a documented record of your conversation.
If the people involved will talk, listen intently.
When someone feels harmed by something that happened at your salon or with one of your employees, what they really want is to be heard. They want to feel like you actually care about the perceived harm.
So, listen to everything they have to say and definitely do not get defensive. Don’t try to convince them of anything. Just make them feel heard and express your compassion.
Once you’ve listened to the aggrieved party, make a sincere apology to them directly. If the situation warrants it–and sometimes it seriously does–work with a PR professional or firm to craft a public statement. Release the public apology online and to the media.
Once the public apology has been made, stop talking about the incident.
You may be contacted for comment by media outlets. People online may try to goad you into commenting further. Refer them to your public apology and leave it at that.
Take Appropriate Action
Apologies are great, but actions that mend the harm done and prevent it from occurring in the future are more meaningful.
If the incident that sparked the crisis involves a specific employee, train or fire them depending on the severity of the incident.
Need a handy reference to help you determine which behaviors warrant training and which require immediate termination? Here you go:
Crisis: A nail professional makes an innocent comment without realizing it could be perceived as racist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, and/or xenophobic, deeply offending a client, who immediately launches an online smear campaign and calls for a boycott.
Action: Public apology followed by diversity training.
Crisis: A stylist severely burns a client’s scalp with a hot iron, resulting in an ER visit.
Action: Immediate suspension from the floor until the employee successfully completes more training.
Crisis: A professional leaves relaxer on a client’s hair for over an hour while they take multiple haircuts on a busy Saturday afternoon, resulting in chemical burns and hair loss.
Action: Immediate termination, public apology, a formal complaint against the offending professional to the state board, and a review/revision of the salon’s double-booking practices.
Crisis: An esthetician instigates a physical fight with a client by delivering a well-placed punch to the client’s throat.
Action: Immediate termination, public apology, and full cooperation with any police/legal action that may follow.
In general, technical mistakes can be trained away, but acts of malice or gross negligence cannot.
Be Smart on Social Media
In these times of viral news stories, the online conversation about a PR crisis can be fierce. As a proud business owner, the temptation to jump into the online conversation and defend your salon will be almost irresistible, but restrain yourself.
No good can come of engaging with angry commenters on the Internet. Do your best to be an observer of the online conversation. It’s important to know what people are saying so you can be prepared if someone wants to discuss the incident in person, but it’s just as important to stay quiet and keep from blowing the issue up even more.
You can respond to a comment or two with the text from your public statement, but leave it at that.
Once you have your statement, don’t deviate from it. Never respond to anything when you’re feeling emotional or angry.
Practicing Excellent Public Relations Crisis Management
We work in an industry where artistry and customer service collide in a semi-casual environment. Services and conversations can go sideways at any point during the work day. These facts can be easy to forget in the mundanities of our daily routine.
If you have an excellent public relations crisis management plan established in advance, then damage control doesn’t have to be a torturous, reactionary ordeal. Knowing what to do when a PR crisis arises ensures that the crisis won’t ruin you or your business.
For more advice about being a smart and savvy salon owner, check out my new book, “Salon Ownership & Management: The Definitive Guide to the Professional Beauty Business.”