Sexual harassment or misconduct allegations have felled figures ranging from a U.S. senator and a hip-hop mogul to a folksy radio host in recent memory.
Some crisis-management firms are reaping the benefits as people – some not even yet accused of misconduct — sign up for reputation-management services to keep their names out of the news.
Our goal at Ripley PR, a Knoxville-based global B2B public relations agency specializing in franchise, manufacturing, tech and building trades, is generally to get our clients names in the news. We do provide crisis-management services, and create crisis plans and provide extensive training for our clients. Sometimes the best crisis management is avoiding crises in the first place. The second-best response to a crisis is having a solid plan in place.
It’s apparent, however, that years of company policies and courses on preventing sexual harassment have failed to adequately communicate that sexual misconduct is intolerable and fatal to reputations.
Your company should ultimately call a professional public relations firm to help navigate sexual misconduct allegations. Here are some ways we would recommend your company respond to public allegations of sexual misconduct so your company, its employees and leaders can avoid tainted reputations and possible financial exposure:
- Promptly assemble a team of legal, human resources and communications professionals (like Ripley) to determine the best response.
- Be as transparent as possible if the press picks up on the allegations or a civil suit is possible.
- Articulate steps your company will take to address the matter and prevent its occurrence in the future.
- If you don’t have a companywide sexual harassment policy, create one.
- Carefully craft any emails or other correspondence referencing the allegations.
- Do not automatically discount the accuser’s credibility.
We recommend our clients have a strict sexual-harassment policy in place and review it often with employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides an overview of what constitutes sexual harassment. Take every claim seriously. Again, crisis avoidance is the best crisis management, but when allegations of sexual misconduct fly, they must be taken very seriously.