The vagaries of crisis management rules demand emphasis on how to get up, get ready and move again. Often a crisis is averted or controlled, without a plan for the next ‘big’ step. It’s not just about extinguishing the blaze, only – it’s also about regaining stakeholders’ trust and confidence and restoring reputation.
When a crisis is closely linked to a business’ operations, more focused processes, employee training and/or a comprehensive reputation restoration plan should be put in place with the primary aim to ensure that quality and standards of products and/or services are maintained. PR consulting agencies and internal communications processes come in handy in order to boost impacted morale of the employees and reinforce the crisis management mechanism within.
It reinforces the crisis mechanism which involves identifying and plugging loopholes within it most urgently, and where required put a crisis manual in place. Those who already have such an instruction document in place may also need to have a relook at it, overhaul and upgrade if necessary. Seasoned PR professionals have always highlighted the need for a refresher course for brand leaders in order to ensure immediate firefighting when a crisis hits.
From the stakeholder’s point of view, it is imperative to know in advance the most crucial go-to processes and people in the event of a crisis. The stakeholders could be journalists, government officials, relevant organisation representatives, peers of NGOs. A crisis-hit brand must be ready with the knowledge of the most relevant people and actions. Preparedness is the key to all locks of crisis.
Better-known PR companies in Delhi that offer crisis management, and reputation-building and management services, stress on the need to inform. The onus lies on the enterprise facing public scrutiny to inform its stakeholders about the changes and best practices put in place in the wake of a crisis. Such an open and transparent attitude eases the stress and helps an organisation get its attention back on its business.
The importance of public sentiment assumes great relevance when a company is hit by a crisis. Former US President Abraham Lincoln in one speech while sharing his view of political persuasion said, “Public sentiment is everything. With it, nothing can fail; against it, nothing can succeed. Whoever molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.” Lincoln used this principle to discredit Stephen Douglas. It is appropriate to say that public opinion is similar to the wind, one cannot see it but its impact can be felt. Just as strong wind can uproot strong trees, an unhealthy public opinion can tear down the walls of a company.
In today’s digital world, it is significant to build a relationship with stakeholders and also set the stage for fresh ones. PR agencies say that in a midst of an emergency, it is critical that the top executives and senior management take stock of the situation at the earliest and implement a plan accordingly.
From branding perspective, when fundamental values of a business gets tampered with, adapting a slow approach towards communicating with the stakeholders can do more harm than good.
A quick glance at some effective steps to contain brand damage:
Identify the root of the problem and acknowledge it
The first step towards rebuilding trust after a crisis is to understand the problem in depth and in detail so that appropriate steps can be taken to resolve it. PR consulting agencies suggest the formation of an investigation team/ firefighting force for necessary action. Such a team should be authorized to act on behalf of the brand and have a free hand to communicate with the media.
Also Read: Brand DNA: why it matters to your business
Identify your friends
Since social media and word-of-mouth works speedily and double time, it is important for a brand to know the ‘Friends of the Brand’ who can speak for it, and keep all channels of communication fed with the right, positive and appropriate messages.
A pre-exercise for this is to build a contact base, a fan following to be explored during times of crisis. Influencers’ speaking on its behalf does more good for a brand than the brand speaking for itself. Such goodwill ambassadors with the outreach ability help build a base to communicate with the relevant stakeholders and communities.
If there’s an error committed by your brand, be upright and prompt in admitting it. But that’s not enough. You have to be ready and announcing your solution to resolve a vexed issue too. Have the right team to deliberate threadbare and hunt down the best solution for your brand. Remember, a mistake is bad news. If your stakeholders feel that you have been nonchalant and half-hearted in resolving the mistake, that’s worse.
Think from peer perspective
It is obvious that a competing brand would consider your crisis an opportunity to poach your clients. Hence, act fast and act sure to quell the crisis, without losing your client’s faith in you. You must establish that stickiness and connect with your consumers, which in turn will give you the confidence of long-term support from those who swear by your brand.
Rebuilding lost reputation
Be it a world war or crisis within a brand, rebuilding is a detailed, planned process without which future milestones will always be under the shadow of doubts, apprehensions and misgivings. Brands must be careful in ensuring that past does not become a real ghost possessing the future. It is crucial for a business beset by crisis to set short-term goals for effective management to combat the outrage and restore positivity around it.
In fact, every single product, advertisement, decision that is taken post a crisis should be checked, cross-checked and re-evaluated before implementation.
Brand reputation built over years of brilliant strategies, millions of rupees and hardwork can be destroyed in no time. But there’s always a silver lining to the cloud. And some good news. Most reputed companies have had to face crisis in their lives and most have come around to succeed, again. To err is human, but to quickly correct it is an organization, success of which is directly linked to its employees’ well-being and future. Therefore, a crisis must be treated as a wakeup call to plug a leakage within or for course correction. You are never immune to crisis, you can only act upon it — your speed, planning, strategy and intent will determine the future.