Your Brand is in Crisis. What now?
It’s the cold hard truth many brands don’t like to face. Eventually you will be faced with some sort of brand crisis. And, in the world of instant news we’ve seen many brands go down in flames when faced with a crisis while others come back swinging, stronger than ever.
So how do you recover when your brand is in crisis?
First step is to get your legal and PR team (internal or external – or both) up to speed and provide all the details (the good, the bad and the ugly) so they can go into damage control – stat!
1. Assess the level of damage – your PR and legal team depending on the severity of the issue will need to assess the damage including the cause, the threat and potential solutions. This also includes the level of media and social media interest, and how much time you have to get your internal/external communications in place before going public with any statements or interviews. Once this is assessed then a plan can be put in place to help navigate through the crisis and minimize any further risk.
2. Get ahead of the story – as part of your due diligence and before responding publicly to a crisis, it’s important to know what is being said about the brand and who’s saying it. Or if someone has a specific bone to pick. This will help when developing your next strategic move and internal/external communications. And, whatever you do, do not engage in a war or words with media or consumers.
3. Internal Communications – don’t let your internal team be your downfall. Have your PR team draft up internal communications to provide to all members of your organization to ensure everyone is aware of the situation, how to handle and where to direct incoming inquiries from media, potential customers, existing customers, etc. Any internal communications should also announce the official Corporate Spokesperson(s) for the issue and highlight to all employees to not comment on the issue publicly or via any social media channels. Especially if the issue is going through litigation. By opening up communications and ensuring everyone is on the same page you minimize the risk of the issue snowballing or a rogue employee saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.
4. External Communications – depending on media interest for a comment or interview with the brand’s spokesperson, your PR team will develop a statement that can be sent asap to media in lieu of an interview until you have properly accessed the situation and are ready to speak publicly. This response can be delivered by your communications team or external PR team via email to the interested party. Email responses are best as any phone conversations or voicemails (even off the record) can be fair game for quotes in articles.
5. Know when it’s time to take accountability vs. deflect – there are some instances when the brand in question is a victim of someone else’s agenda is or ‘false’ news claims. In this case it’s up to the communications team to develop a strategy and plan to educate key audiences on the false information plaguing the brand to help turn around media and public opinion. But when the brand is clearly at fault, then the best course of action is to acknowledge the incident, take responsibility and be transparent. It’s not only the right thing to do but its also the most effective way to get the brand back on track.
As a PR Agency in Toronto we never like to get the call telling us our beloved client brand is in crisis. And, because time is of the essence when dealing with a crisis, we often recommend to clients that they have a crisis communications plan in place pre-crisis so that if a problem should arise they can go instantly into crisis communications mode. This will help to diminish any further damage or backlash. The pre-crisis plan can be as simple as a list of roles and responsibilities including the top two spokespeople, PR team contacts so employees of the brand can direct any calls or inquiries regarding a possible issue to them to handle.