Sexual harassment should NEVER happen, but it does. Every organization needs a game plan to be prepared for employees who can't keep their hands (and inappropriate remarks) to themselves. What is your company policy regarding sexual harassment in the workplace? How would a sexual harassment claim affect your business's reputation? Most importantly, do you have a plan that encourages victims to speak out without fearing ridicule, retaliation or minimization?
Crisis communication planning is a very important aspect of strategic PR, and for good reason: bad things happen and the media are understandably hungry for stories that will likely get the most attention. Right now, sexual harassment is a pretty salient issue. But the way an individual or organization responds is just as important to the public. Times have finally changed and society wants to see that victims are respected. They want to know businesses care about their employees. Why? Because sexual harassment is a widespread problem and the vast majority of those accused fail to respond in a timely, appropriate, respectful manner.
There's a psychological phenomenon known as primacy effect, which essentially relates to first impressions: Humans typically form opinions and biases based on first impressions. The media doesn't wait for legal teams to formulate responses. Once a story breaks, it's out there, and your organization will be tried in the court of public opinion long before you issue any sort of statement designed to win a legal dispute.
This is why you need a crisis communication plan. With sexual harassment issues in particular, you'll walk a fine line between saying too much and not saying enough. And if you respond in a way that disrespects the accuser, you'll likely lose in the court of public opinion.
I work with companies and their legal teams create crisis communication plans and prepared statements for these types of situations. Let me help your organization preserve its reputation by being prepared as soon as you receive that first phone call from the journalist.