As much as we hate to think about our businesses being in a crisis (they are our babies, after all), we hate the idea of being without a plan to put out a fire, if one were to arise, even more. Getting ahead of issues before they happen is your best defence against brand-damaging situations.
What is a crisis?
Crises are scary, but not every negative situation is a crisis. While we never enjoying having an unhappy customer or negative review posted online, these situations are not the kind of crisis we’re talking about. When planning for a crisis, it’s important to prepare for the worst possible situation. Some crisis situations, if they were to occur, could include your product causing harm to a customer, like the Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants lawsuit, or an internal crisis such as unethical or illegal misconduct inside the company. When your company’s profits or reputation could be at risk, it’s time to kick your crisis management into high gear.
How to manage a crisis
Make a list of potential crisis and develop a plan to respond to each
The most effective way to manage any crisis is to have a plan before something bad happens. Rely on your team to consider all the ways your company could find itself in a crisis and create a detailed plan for each scenario. Each plan should include a step-by-step process and role assignments for each crisis task. Not only will your team be better prepared to get ahead of any crisis situation, this planning will come in handing if you experience a crisis situation in someone’s absence.
Halt all scheduled social media
Social media is a company’s gateway to communicating with their audience. This is why it is critical that you’re communicating the right messaging on social media at the time of a crisis. Often times, this means one of your first steps in a crisis should get checking your scheduled social media calendar and removing or postponing any scheduled content. In a crisis, your customers need to know that you’re taking the issue seriously. Posting content that is irrelevant to the crisis suggests to the public that you’re trying to sweep the crisis under the rug to continue on with business as usual.
Communicate the key messages of crisis management
So, something has happened and you’re not sure what to say. Here is an easy guide on your next crisis communication strategy:
Admit to the incident
Honesty is the best policy. If your company has been found to break the law, endanger the public or act unethically, admitting to the incident is your best way to get ahead of what’s yet to come. It may seem like a brand damaging move, but acknowledging the situation is the only way to begin fixing it. Likewise, if you wrongfully deny claims against you, and your lie escalates, you could find yourself in more hot water than before. When it comes to admitting to the incident, there is no time to waste. You should be communicating with the public mere hours after the incident takes place.
Admitting your crisis incident happened is not enough to reassure the public, especially if you want your brand to sustain as little damage as possible. Your next step is to accept responsibility for your actions that contributed to the incident. While admission of guilt doesn’t look great on anyone, pointing fingers sends an even worse message. Telling the public exactly where you went wrong and why the situation happened will help you regain the trust of your customers and the public.
Outline a preventative action plan
After everything is said and done, the last step is to not only inform the public of your next steps to resolution but also communicate your plan to prevent this crisis from recurring ever again. People need to know that your company has changed as a result of bad situation. Not only that, but your team should be eager to grow from the crisis and desire a proactive solution in hopes that you’ll never have to execute your crisis management plan again in the future. Lastly, once you make a promise to the public to set a preventative action plan, your brand reputation depends of your follow through. When you say you're going to make something better, be sure that you actually make it better.
Crisis management is a fast-paced, fine-line to walk, but once you have an action plan in place, you can rest assured that you won’t be taken by surprise the next time a crisis occurs. From the moment of the crisis to the resolutions (outlining your preventative action plan), your crisis management plan should give you control of your company’s narrative in 72 hours or less. Quick action is the best action and you can only do this effectively with a plan in place. If you’re ready to take control of your company’s narrative in any situation, let's talk about communicating the right messaging for brand-building success.