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Industry Buzz: How to Handle a PR Crisis


The National Football League (NFL) is in the midst of a public relations (PR) crisis. Although the perception is that PR crises only happen to high-profile companies, that perception is false. It could happen to any company, including those in the health club industry.

Whether or not the bad press was in or out of your company’s control, there are measures that can be taken to ensure a predicament of this sort doesn’t become your downfall. Below are eight steps to take in light of bad press, courtesy of Entreprenuer.com’s “The PR Crisis Handbook”:

Photo courtesy of Twin Design / Shutterstock.com.

Photo courtesy of Twin Design / Shutterstock.com.

1. Regret, restitution, reform and recovery

2. Suppress your emotional reactions

3. Define the problem

4. Create a structure and process

5. Reveal character first, story second

6. Prepare for social media terror

7. Make reform convincing and advantageous

8. Believe in recovery

Whether or not your company is big or small, having a PR crisis plan in place is vital to ensuring you’re best equipped to handle an less than ideal situation, if one occurs. In fact, there are many instances of companies actually coming out on top in the midst of a PR crisis simply because it was handled correctly.

For example in 2007, JetBlue’s operations completely collapsed in lieu of an ice storm, leading to the cancellation of 1,000 flights. Instead of blaming the weather, the company publicly apologized and sent out a list of what it would do to rectify the situation for affected customers.

According to BusinessInsider.com, while these actions didn’t stop all backlash, they did help the company recover:

“In the weeks that followed, JetBlue managed to [squash much of the uproar by being as public and straightforward as possible. [JetBlue’s CEO, David] Neeleman went on YouTube, the Today Show, Letterman, and Anderson Cooper, not pleading his case, but apologizing for his company’s faults.

Though there was much reputational damage done, JetBlue’s comeback allowed it to regain some of its luster. For an airline that differentiates itself so heavily on customer service, it was crucial that they did.”

Remember, a golden rule of thumb during a PR crisis is to apologize versus passing the buck. In addition, keep in mind that the public has a short collective memory in most situations. By having a PR crises plan in place and executing it correctly, a PR crises can be just that — a crisis that will blow over in time.


Rachel Zabonick is the Editor of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@clubsolutionsmagazine.com. Reach out to her about exciting events or programs your club has implemented, or to share the amazing accomplishments of a member.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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