Crisis management – why it pays to have a strategy
All crises are different but each event can have a significant impact on your business in many different ways. From natural disasters, redundancies, fraud or security breaches, it’s critical to have a strategy in place to help manage the situation, streamlining and safeguarding the process from the time the issue arises to your team’s response. Any marketing professional will tell you that activity that falls into the ‘Golden hour’, the first hour since the crisis arises, can determine whether a problem is manageable or a full-blown crisis.
Unfortunately, many brands still lack an issues handling or crisis preparedness strategy and they tend to deal with a crisis on a reactive basis, often taking an ‘it won’t happen to us’ mentality. Although crises aren’t always a regularly occurrence, they can prove incredibly damaging to a brand’s reputation if handled badly or not handled at all. However, having a strategic plan in place for this period can help your team to understand how they should respond, reverting to official company policy to help minimise the impact. In our blog this week, we’re addressing best practice methods for your crisis management and why it pays to have a strategy.
Preparation is key
Taking an ad-hoc approach to crisis management isn’t effective, and it pays to have a plan in place. You should prepare by identifying the main crises that could potentially impact your business, and identify the process for dealing with each situation. You’re never going to be able to plan for every single eventuality but you should be able to list a few possibilities or risks. It would also be worth highlighting who is responsible for managing each scenario and what resources they will need to effectively deal with any issues, therefore ensuring that roles and responsibilities are laid out at an early stage, from who will field media calls, respond to tweets, draft statement, provide web updates, to who will be physically be there to speak to the team and the press – there’s so much more to think about in a digital world.
Remember that crisis situations are often very emotive and are fuelled by human reaction. This is why it’s crucial to take a less corporate approach to crisis communications, instead showing more of the human touch behind your business. This includes being humble, honest and taking ownership for any mistakes that your business may have made before putting a plan in place to deal with any issues. KFC did this well with its recent ‘FCK it we’re sorry’ campaign following its shortage of chicken, placing full-page adverts in the Metro and the Sun. After all, people relate to other people and content that is authentic and relevant.
Take a problem offline
In a crisis situation, problems can spread like wildfire across social media (just think of the video of United Airlines staff dragging passengers from an overbooked flight in 2017) but impact can be minimised by taking an issue offline as soon as possible. As a best practice approach, you should always look to respond to any negative comments publicly, then take the conversation offline through a phone call or a private message to deal with any issue effectively.
Regardless of where a crisis has arisen, everything is now discoverable online thanks to the ease of sharing and screenshot culture. Of course, this can mean that any faults or mistakes in your messaging may be picked apart by competitors who wish to gain an advantage during your low periods. So, it’s important to be transparent and consistent in your messaging at all times, even if there are multiple members of your team handling the same issue.
We live in a world which is constantly switched on, with consumers expecting responses on a 24/7 basis especially when they’re having an issue with service. Given this expectation, we would expect all brands to be present and have a policy in place for communicating with their customers, especially through social media channels, during crises situations. Rolls Royce were seen to be guilty of taking an ‘outdated’ approach to business in 2010 by not communicating with its audience when 900 of its plane engines failed during flight. Not having this process in place was arguably more damaging for the brand and could have had a crippling impact on consumer trust. That’s why, above all, you need to communicate with your audience as soon as you have relevant information available. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should rush a response which risks issues later on, but collate an informed response as soon as possible and get a statement ready to say that you acknowledge and are dealing with the issue.
Having an up to date strategy for handling any PR crises can prove essential in stressful situations. Not only can it help to prevent issues from escalating into a full-blown crisis in a very public sphere, but it can also provide your team with the resources, reassurance and confidence to deal with any issues, helping to protect your business brand image.