It takes a lot of dedication and hard work to build a reputable brand that the public can rely on. Despite best efforts, however, there are constant crises lurking in the background that have the potential to destroy a brand that took years to establish in the mere blink of an eye. With an effective crisis management plan in place, companies can better manage a critical situation, should one arise, and minimize its negative effects.
It’s a matter of fact: crises lurk around the corner of every company, organization and brand. You could make sure that all of your Ts are cross and your Is are dotted, be as transparent as possible, offer the most amazing and proven products and services and have the best workplace environment in the world, and yet there’s still no way to guarantee that you will not be affected by a crisis.
Should a crisis come knocking at the door, are you sure that you can handle it? Unless you have prepared and planned in advance, the answer to that question is more than likely a resounding “no.” PR experts agree that the best and most effective way to handle any crisis situation is to make plans ahead of time. That way, in the event that the day you hope will never arrive actually does, you will be able to tackle it head on. Crisis prevention is a critical part of properly running and responsibly managing a successful business. This includes preparing for whatever type of dire situation calms your way so that you can handle it in a calm, straightforward approach and effectively communicate issues with the public. With a proper crisis management plan in place, you will be able to handle a PR disaster like a pro.
Challenges Brands Face Today
In today’s digital-laden society, it has become easier than ever for brands to establish themselves, develop their reputation and build their authority. Companies are built completely from the ground-up, seemingly overnight, thanks to the advances of technology and all of the digital wonders that it offers.
While the digital frontier has certainly afforded great opportunities for companies, organizations and brands, it isn’t devoid of issues. In fact, in certain ways, the digital landscape has created several problems for businesses. Thanks to the internet, negative information can be shared in faster than you can blink your eye, and before you even have a chance to realize that an issue exists. A disgruntled employee could share a negative experience with your company in a Facebook post, for example. That post could go viral in no time, reaching every corner of the globe. In other words, what it took years to build can literally be destroyed in a matter of hours.
The Fundamentals of Crisis Management
As the saying goes, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” In other words, no matter how much you think your organization will avoid a crisis, one can still arise. In the event that one does, it is always wise to be prepared beforehand. Should an issue develop, you are ready to tackle it head-on, thus repairing any damage that ensues and ensuring that whatever damage does result is minimal.
An effective crisis management plan should include the fundamentals outlined below.
Understand the Risks
Even though it might seem like your organization will never be affected by a crisis, thinking that one wont strike is a huge mistake. As mentioned, even the most transparent, most reputable and most trusted organizations are subject to crises.
Do a thorough assessment of the potential crises that could impact your business. Are there products that your customers could become unhappy with? Are you planning on making a change within your organization that could potentially aggravate stakeholders? Are there groups that are opposed to what your brand stands for? Make sure that thoroughly analyze anything that could pose a risk to your company and create a crisis situation. When you understand the possible risks, you will be able to develop an effective way to deal with them.
When you find out that a crisis has erupted, your first reaction might be to panic. Try your best to avoid panic at all costs; it will do way more harm than good. Calmness is your friend. When you panic, it’s difficult to maintain composure and to see clearly, which will make it more difficult to handle the situation at hand. Moreover, panic has the potential to make the crisis even worse. Whatever you do, keep calm. Take comfort in knowing that you have a crisis management in place.
Trying to cover up the issue will only worsen the damage. Instead, take full responsibility and respond to it immediately. Don’t argue or lay blame. Acknowledge the concerns that have been brought to light, address any questions and respond. Issue a press release and publish it in the appropriate channels. Take to social media and post a message that shows you acknowledge the issue. When you take responsibility, it shows the public that you are aware that there is an issue and that you are working on correcting it. Companies that place blame or that try to cover up issues make matters worse for themselves. The public demands and appreciates openness and honesty. If you try covering up the issue or blaming someone or something else, you’ll do far more harm than good.
Stay Ahead of Things
As soon as you hear word that there is a potential crisis, react. Stay ahead of it. Tweet, text, issue press releases, make a statement on your website; do whatever it takes to stay ahead of the story. In doing so, you are acknowledging that there is an issue before fabricated stories can begin circulating and speculations can be made. If you are a reputable company, and the public knows you as such, staying ahead of the story and addressing it before third parties do will allow you to gain better traction with the public. You might not be able to hash out all of the details at first, but you will certainly be able to acknowledge that you know there is an issue and that you are working on repairing it.
Stakeholders and consumers are interested in transparency. The last thing they want is to feel like they are associated with a company that uses a bunch of smoke and mirrors. They’ll feel as if you are hiding something, and you’ll give them a reason not to trust you. You should be as transparent as possible, always, even before a crisis strikes. In the event that a situation does arise, you should remain transparent. Let the world know that you are aware of the issue and that you are working on resolving it.
When an issue arises that could have a negative impact on consumers and stakeholders, an apology is in order. Make sure that you offer a sincere and heartfelt apology. Tell the public that you are aware of the problems that the issue has caused and that you are deeply saddened by it. Once you offer an apology, it’s important to take action. Do something that shows the public that you are making an effort to change your ways to move past the issue and to ensure that it won’t happen again.
Understand and Address the Victims
Though it may seem like you – the company, the brand or the organization – is the victim, it’s almost guaranteed that you aren’t. While it might seem like you are being attacked, and sometimes on a personal level, it’s important that you remember not to take things personally. Even though you probably feel otherwise, you are not the story. Those who have been affected by the situation are.
Make sure that you understand who the victims of the crisis situation are and that you identify them. Focus on offering help and making the issue better. Offer assistance that you possibly can, both publicly and privately. Join together with other individuals that might be trying to offer help. While you want to protect your brand, don’t, under any circumstances, let it appear as if protecting is more important to you than offering help to the real victims of the situation at hand.
Work with the Press
When a crisis strikes, it might seem like the press is your enemy, but remember this: they aren’t. You just need a good crisis communication plan.
The media has one goal: to tell the story of what has happened or of what is happening. In order to do that efficiently, they need your help. Contrary to popular opinion, the media isn’t always driven by drama or headlines. Believe it or not, they want to make sure that they get it right. Assist them with getting the best information, and don’t be afraid to ask them to help you when you need it. For example, you can ask the media to share pertinent information before it’s shared through other avenues, such as social media.
By following these fundamentals of crisis management, you can ensure that when a disaster does strike, you will be able to handle it as proactively and effectively as possible.