Public Relations Crisis Management and Damage Control for Beauty Entrepreneurs

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.

Really Listen

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.

Apologize Sincerely 

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.”

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Tina Alberino
Tina Alberino
Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and Salon Ownership and Management: A Definitive Guide to the Professional Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.

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  1. Hi Tina,

    I’m a salon suite renter in Texas. I’m having a lawyer review my 30 page contract asap but haven’t had the opportunity yet. My issue is that the manager of accounting verbally attacked me for calling with regards to how I put in for my free weeks of rent per the contractual agreement.

    I had referred a stylist and she ended up leasing. But she wouldn’t listen and when I asked if I could please complete a sentence calmly as she’s screaming at me, she was further inappropriate and extremely unprofessional. This is a person who has access to all of my personal records and business account and licenses.

    Nothing came from the conversation because I genuinely couldn’t get her to hear anything. I’ve been told by the leasing staff that “she does this and has been talked to about it but it’s the way that she is.”

    I’ve never been late nor had a complaint, and although I don’t have to I do market where I am at which benefits them.

    I’m needing to request to speak to her manager regarding this, I’m not sure how to verbalize this all as well that I was concerned about the ceiling in my suite, it seems to be bulging from rain and has filler hanging down and was discolored.

    Today, the leasing agent had the discoloring fixed but the maintenance people stood on my personal furniture and left residue all over my entire salon from this half-a** repair. When I brought this up with the leasing agent, with pictures of the condition, her response was, “oh no we have told them to stop doing that!”

    They also promise marketing a website and many other amenities to us that they do not honor.

    The owner is more of a real estate professional vs a salon professional. He’s never there and I’ve been told he’s not real informed about the industry by the agent that signed me.

    The account also lied to me. She said angrily that she was going to go talk to my agent that she was in the office next to her because she should not have offered my referral what she did. My agent called and she hadn’t been in the main office all day and when she did go in she was punished for honoring a Craig’s list ad that they actually have up and when she sent the ad to the manager of both her and the accountant, she was scrutinized again. False advertising is ok?

    What are my rights with regard to being an insured licensed LLC suite renter in Texas regarding the leasing agreement and treatment of business to business? I was told this woman is awful as I’ve only been there half of my lease at this point and how would you address this problem with her manager without sounding petty as it was like an episode of Jerry Springer but without my participation.

    A business owner since 1999.

    • I doubt highly that Texas has any commercial landlord/tenant laws on the books, so your state probably defaults to the contents of the contract. Essentially, whatever the contract says goes. Even though the contract is 30-pages, I don’t think there’s anything in there prohibiting filing a complaint about one of the leasing company’s employees. If anything, I’d think they’d want to be alerted of that manager’s behavior IMMEDIATELY, as she clearly represents a massive problem for the company. “That’s the way it is,” isn’t acceptable. You, as a tenant, are their customer. The leasing company’s employees are supposed to be ensuring YOUR happiness and trying to retain you as a tenant for as long as possible.

      I have concerns though. Why does this “manager of accounting” have access to ANY of your business information, let alone your business account? This is a huge problem. Your businesses should be completely separate, distinct entities. You’re renting a space from them. They are not partners in your business. They should not have access to anything of yours–not client records, sales data, procedures, products, or anything else.

      Why are you being involved in this issue regarding the person you referred? How does any of that (what she was offered by your agent) have to do with you? Honestly, this woman sounds unstable and like she needs to be dismissed from her position immediately.

      If I were you, I’d do the following:
      1.) Put together a backup plan. (Just in case I have to find a new space on short notice.)
      2.) With the agent, contact the person the accountant reports to and/or the owner.
      3.) Alert the owner to the accountant’s behavior and demand that something be done to punish it so she actually STOPS. If she’s never punished, she’ll never learn. I’d also remind everyone involved that I’m a paying tenant–their customer. If you, as a customer, were berated by an employee at a store or restaurant, would you allow that? Probably not, right? This is the same situation. You’re a customer of their company and one of their employees has been able to be abusive to you and others without punishment. You are paying them. Tell them to do better.

      Stop worrying about being petty. There’s nothing petty about this and anyone who thinks otherwise shouldn’t be in business to begin with.

  2. Hi Tina,

    Per their contract, I was required to give them a voided business check so that they could set up auto pay rents from my business account into theirs.

    I’ve done what you’ve stated here… but as you’re aware their are bigger issues that I question now. Like why TDLR’s home page website contradicts the health and safety laws and regulations behind our licensing in practices of public health safety and universal precautions…. but instead states “it’s a business decision,” vs mandatory for the health and safety of the public and safety of the cosmetologists per the US government in all sectors stating to practice “social distancing.”

    And why are we required to not work but still pay rents risking this outbreak of Coronavirus, breaking their very own regulations and laws as if the salon owners aren’t required to adhere to the same standards regulations and laws under all areas pertaining?

    Why is our profession not on any stimulus plan or industry? It’s insane that TDLR actually admittedly stated that their home page message is a contradiction to their universal precautions regulations “but they haven’t been told to change it.”

    Haven’t been told by who?

    And why is there no protection for cosmetologists to adhere to a national disaster that falls under health as we are in the health and beauty industry and have much to adhere to…. when it comes to suite rentals? I’m an LLC, and I have to say, I don’t feel like one based on my experiences so far from trying to get answers and it’s still up on TDLR’s home page.

    Dying to know what you would say to this.

    #ConfusedDoIAdhereToTDLRSRulesAndRegulationsbook OR risk losing my license and health as well compromise the public safety regulations because they let it up to the salons? We are not retail and I thought salon owners had to adhere to the conditions of our license to run a salon regardless of suite rentals they’re responsible for the common areas and maintenance.

    Look forward to hearing from you on this topic.

    Do the loan options and unemployment to small businesses even apply to self employed business owners?

    What should I expect from the salon I lease from during a situation such as Coronavirus?

    #Confused I know took and passed my state board exams…

    Desperate with a family in ND to try and survive this.

    • This crisis has made the cracks in our country’s foundation extremely clear. As a nation, we’re going to be forced to address some issues that we’ve been (mostly) fortunate to avoid addressing, but in the interim, we once again have to figure out how to survive in an economy that either cannot afford luxuries or is too scared to spend money on them.

      I wish I could tell you this will blow over soon, or that the government will pull through for us, but I don’t have much faith that it will. I recommend moving forward as if there’s no stimulus coming and as if recovery is at least five years away.

      When it comes to our businesses, we are definitely considered retail establishments in the majority of locales (when it comes to permitting, at least). The salon owner, regardless of what your county/city/state considers salons to be classified as, is responsible for common areas. It’s their responsibility during this outbreak to ensure the facility common areas are properly disinfected. In national emergencies like these, federal authorities don’t have the power to order local governments, but this is an unprecedented situation, so that may change.

      There is a petition going around to demand a stimulus package for us. It has already received nearly 1 million signatures. I’ll be personally overseeing its delivery to my state capital building. I would recommend signing, if you haven’t already. More names never hurts. Any stimulus or relief package needs to include the self-employed. It needs to include small business owners. After all, we’re not eligible for unemployment since we aren’t actually employed.

      That said, eligibility requirements may not apply in certain areas as we progress through this thing. A lot of states are considering a variety of approaches to preventing economic ruin and we have no way of knowing what strategies will ultimately be utilized. With the situation changing almost hour-by-hour, it’s impossible to even guess.

      From what I’ve seen, loan options are “available,” and while I’m sure lending institutions are bending their eligibility requirements right now, some states are talking about disaster assistance loans (see: North Carolina and Colorado). I recommend looking into those state and federal loans and grants before going to the banks. You’ll likely receive a lower interest rate and other incentives.

      From your salon landlord, I would expect more of what you’ve been enduring, only worse. (I’m a pessimist.) Some people shine in a crisis, but others don’t. I’m going to err on the side of caution here and say that the piece of work you’ve been dealing with is not a “shine in a crisis” kind of person. Expect for the salon to be closed and to have to fight them over the rent (unless your state steps in and waives it at some point). If I were you, I’d be home. This should not be up to the salon owners. The fact that nonessential businesses are still open is blowing my mind right now. My family and I haven’t gone out in public since March 13th, and after seeing what happened in Italy (and now Europe overall), our country’s lack of impetus and carefree attitude over the last month has been appalling.

      I wish I could offer more comfort. I hope I’m wrong and that everything will go back to normal quickly. I’m still going to advise everyone to behave as if it won’t.


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