The sprouts have been cooked to perfection. The roast potatoes are devilishly crispy on the outside and delightfully fluffy on the inside. The bird is resting and its juices are running clear.
Christmas dinner 2017 is a triumph. Or is it?
Just as you’re about to sit down with your loved ones for the meal of the year, the phone rings. It’s a journalist from the local radio station who’s been contacted by a group of disgruntled clients. And she wants to hear your side of the story for the Boxing Day breakfast news.
Your homemade cranberry sauce just took on an extra bitterness.
All the hard work you put into your business over the past 12 months is about to be undone and your reputation is set to take a battering. It’s not the best Christmas present ever.
So how would you handle this situation?
The first thing to do is not panic, as hard as it may seem.
Whenever one’s faced with a communications crisis, whatever the time of year, it’s important to take a step back and give yourself space to think about the situation.
Don’t be pressured into meeting a journalist's deadline - you shouldn't answer any questions until you’ve given them due consideration. It's okay to ask for more time.
It’s also sensible to have a fresh pair of eyes and ears - someone removed from the situation, who will be able to give you an honest appraisal.
A good communications professional will assess whether it’s beneficial for you and your business to give an interview or a written statement.
It might be that you will need to brief the journalist on background to the story. So it’s important to clarify what constitutes background information and what is to be quoted.
Your communications partner will help you draw a line under the crisis and will look for ways to help you recover your reputation.
Additionally, it might not just be the broadcast or print media where you need to think about a response.
If you’re selling products and services directly to consumers you might come under fire on social media.
Christmas can be a particularly tricky time, especially if your products are likely to be bought as gifts. The last thing you want is a series of negative comments on Facebook or Twitter about your state-of-the-art gadget not working.
If your business is exposed to this kind of risk, it’s worth ensuring someone is on hand to keep an eye on your social media platforms over the holiday.
If there’s a problem, negative comments are more likely to appear from Boxing Day onwards rather than Christmas Day.
So how do you respond? Well, like a traditional communications crisis, it’s important to take a step back and assess the situation.
Your tone of voice is critical; as is acknowledging the problem, providing a solution and being clear about response times.
If the issue is confined to a small number of customers, social media messaging tools might suffice. But if we’re talking about a large number of complaints then a dedicated helpline might be called for, along with a video apology setting out the steps you’re taking to make things right for the people who have funded your Christmas dinner.
Unlike a traditional communications crisis, where a comment issued to the media is often the end of the matter, with social media it’s important to monitor and respond to comments regularly. By appearing unresponsive, you could exacerbate the problem. Be attentive.
Whatever the crisis, if handled well it needn’t ruin your Christmas lunch. As you go into the Christmas holiday, all business owners should have at least one or two trusted PR providers’ phone numbers in their contacts book, should the need arise.
A good PR person is on hand all year round. And whilst you can rest assured they won’t be yearning for the phone to ring on Christmas Day, they will always rise to the challenge.
Tip: make sure your comms support has provided you with an emergency contact number ahead of the Christmas holiday.