When a brand has a problem, it can quickly escalate into a crisis because the occurrence might be captured on camera or reported by anybody who wants to share their thoughts. It might be about anything, such as a customer service conversation that was mishandled or a video of a passenger being violently removed from an airplane. Everything a client can record or comment on, which is everything, has the potential to cause a societal crisis.
According to the most recent statistics, about 3.5 billion individuals utilize social media. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and others are responsible for both positive and terrible viral PR. To drive sales and marketing, the greatest brands understand how to appropriately communicate with their customers via these communication platforms. Smarter brands are also prepared for any unfavorable news that may emerge on these platforms and escalate into a public relations catastrophe.
Crisis management is a corporate approach aimed at assisting organizations in dealing with a terrible incident. A negative occurrence might range from a minor public relations disaster on Twitter to a major injury or death. Managing a crisis entails devising a strategy and coordinating resources to meet the needs of those affected while also mending the brand’s reputation.
Crisis management is the process of preparing managers and staff to deal with unexpected scenarios and conditions in the workplace. Having one in place allows them to control their emotions, reduce risk, and respond to changes in the present while under pressure. It’s also vital to keep things from going worse for your consumers and your company.
Below, we will talk about some strategies that can help your brand survive a crisis.
1. Know the value of your brand reputation: Your brand’s reputation is an important asset; know what it’s worth. Hildreth says, “A good chunk of brand value lies in intangible assets, such as how stakeholders perceive you.” Any negative social media content can negatively impact brand perception.
2. Know what could damage your brand safety: Do you know your vulnerabilities? Maybe it’s a safety issue or an employee training issue (usually caused by a lack of training). With all the news about data breaches, perhaps it’s a potential security issue. Know where your vulnerabilities are and do what you can to preemptively prepare for a problem.
3. Explore the worst-case scenarios: Once you know your vulnerabilities, consider the worst possible situation. Hildreth suggests creating an “Impact Chart.” Play out different scenarios and devise responses to them.
4. Map your stakeholders: Who would be impacted by a crisis? This may include employees and customers. Once identified, plan ahead by drafting the messages you will deliver to different people involved or impacted.
5. Define what a crisis is for your brand: What is your definition of a crisis? It’s different for every organization. Review the different scenarios you came up with as you explored your vulnerabilities and worst-case scenarios (Nos. 2 and 3 above). Hildreth suggests looking at these scenarios and deciding at what point the leadership team would need to become part of the response. That is your “crisis point.”
6. Identify your pre-crisis triggers: Sometimes a crisis will be a surprise. It doesn’t take long for several “witnesses” to an event to post their videos to social channels, turning a single moment into a top news story. Other times it is a steady drumbeat of posts that grows into a PR nightmare. Regardless of how it happens, there are often warning signs. If you happen to pick up on a negative comment or story, you must act immediately – before it can blow up into something much larger.
7. Elect your first responders: Who will be contacted first? Know who is the first to be notified. Create a protocol of who and how your “first responders” will be informed.
8. Create your plan: If you’ve followed these steps, you are aware of what could happen, who gets contacted, and more. Now it’s time to create a plan. Because this is a plan based on hypotheticals – or maybe past experiences – be prepared to adjust as necessary. According to Crisp and PR News, only 32% of PR professionals say they have a crisis plan that’s continually updated.
9. Invest in 24/7/365 online monitoring: You must monitor what others are saying about your brand and, for that matter, your executives and other key players in the organization. People post at all hours. According to Crisp, when brands experience true social media crises, 69% spread internationally within a day and 28% spread internationally within an hour. Therefore, it’s vital to have continuous monitoring, not just on large social media platforms, but anywhere and everywhere your brand is discussed.
10. React quickly: If you’ve studied and implemented the first nine steps, you’re on your way to being prepared to handle a social media crisis. Of course, even the right response may not be enough, if the crisis is truly bad. But it will help you get a handle on the incident. You must step up with a statement. You must own the situation. Reaction time is paramount to mitigating the impact of a crisis and limiting its exposure.
Read Also: Restoring Brand Reputation
None of these steps will prevent a crisis from happening in the first place. But they will help you plan your reaction. The proper way to react to and manage a crisis – or even a minor complaint – is to acknowledge the problem, apologize for it, discuss the resolution, take responsibility, and the final, essential step – react quickly.
Examples of Effective Crisis Management
We’ve compiled a list of crisis communication examples that demonstrate fundamental yet critical concepts of the process. You’ll uncover information about each brand crisis, how it was handled, and actionable lessons you can utilize to replicate their success.
- The crisis:
You never know what the internet is going to find and amplify, but for Cracker Barrel, it was Brad’s wife. In February 2017, Bradley Reid posted on Cracker Barrel’s corporate website asking why his wife Nanette had been fired from the retail-manager job she’d held in an Indiana Cracker Barrel for 11 years.
It wasn’t long before the hashtag #JusticeforBradsWife began trending. Someone even started a Change.org petition for answers that garnered over 17,000 signatures. People began adjusting Yelp and Google pages for the brand to feature photos of Brad’s wife. Other fast food chains began capitalizing on Cracker Barrel’s bad press, including a Chick-fil-A sign emblazoned with “Now Hiring Brad’s Wife!” There have even been satirical retellings of the story on YouTube, garnering over 7 million views.
- The response:
The restaurant’s crisis management was, apparently, not to treat this like a crisis. They kept quiet on the issue, never publicly addressing the movement or Brad’s wife. While you’ll still find a few #NotMyCountryStore hashtags littering Cracker Barrel’s social media channels, the firestorm has mostly passed. And the crisis didn’t appear to have any negative effects on the brand’s financial performance.
- Key takeaway:
Cracker Barrel shows us an example of how silence can sometimes be the best form of crisis communication. In fact, while some critics say silence was the worst response, the general consensus is that it wasn’t the disaster everyone thought it would be at the time. While staying silent may be a risk, it can really pay off. The majority of their consumers today are either unaware of the issue, have already forgotten about it, or know what happened but still enjoy eating and shopping there.
- The crisis:
The joys of flying under the radar have probably never seemed so blissful and sweet to Pepsi execs. In April 2017, Pepsi kicked off a new ad campaign with a commercial starring Kendall Jenner. Over the next 48 hours, the “short film” received nearly 1.6 million views on YouTube.
That might seem harmless enough, but by this time we all know what followed. The world was treated to Jenner leaving a modeling gig to “join the conversation” which she and her fellow marchers seem to “win” after she hands a police officer a Pepsi. The backlash was immediate and fierce, but in Pepsi’s defense, so was their corporate crisis management.
- The response:
The brand initially released a statement defending its campaign by saying, “This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an important message to convey.”
However, less than 24 hours later the soda company pulled the ad and paused the campaign entirely. A second statement followed: “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace, and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize.”
The response was heralded for its speed and straightforward nature, but many predicted it would take a while for the brand to recover from this “worst ad ever.” Now, in 2022, it seems that Kendall Jenner will never escape the backlash surrounding the incident, leaving Pepsi to continue on successfully post-crisis.
- Key takeaway:
The response from Pepsi was immediate and effective. Like many successful crisis communication examples, the brand showed empathy and promised action. This was the first and most important step in their crisis management process and it paid off. Quick yet effective responses help minimize the risk of long-term effects from negative reactions and prevent them from permanently damaging a brand’s reputation.
Johnson & Johnson
- The crisis:
In 1982, seven people in Chicago died after taking cyanide-laced capsules of Johnson & Johnson’s over-the-counter medication Tylenol. The incident remains unsolved. The company’s response has become a textbook example of how to manage a crisis.
- The response:
Johnson & Johnson immediately launched a massive response to the incident, which included halting all product advertising and sending 450,000 messages to healthcare facilities and other stakeholder groups. It also issued safety warnings to consumers.
Despite the evidence indicating that the toxic substance was accidentally introduced through the store shelves and therefore not the company’s fault, the company did not try to hide the truth, and the brand eventually started making tamper-proof packaging. James Burke, the company’s CEO at the time, even went so far as to express regret later on that the company did not immediately switch to a more secure caplet immediately following the incident.
- Key takeaway:
Tylenol’s response is regarded as one of the best crisis management strategies in history. In fact, according to RETRO REPORT on YouTube, it has created the script that corporations still use today. The media generally praised J&J for its actions in handling the situation and helping the Tylenol brand recover. One of the most important lessons in this example is that transparency and integrity will go a long way toward managing a crisis.
Crisis Management Best Practices
Now that you’ve seen crisis management examples of what to do and what not to do, let’s go over the basic principles of a solid crisis management plan. Make sure you check the boxes below when creating or updating your brand’s procedures.
Form a crisis team
Designate a chain of command that includes at least one executive. Include points of contact for both internal and external communications. Also, be sure to appoint a crisis management project manager to coordinate efforts companywide.
Assign a spokesperson
Ideally, this will be your CEO or another top executive. Their job is to help draft and release a statement for those affected by the crisis. Respond swiftly
The longer a brand takes to respond to a crisis, the more manipulative it appears. Take action right away and don’t go more than 48 hours without public comment on the situation if a response is warranted.
Act with honesty and integrity
The truth will always come out. Make sure that when it does your company’s response will align with the news.
Stay silent when appropriate
As we saw in the Cracker Barrel example, sometimes silence is golden. In situations where there may be only one person affected, reaching out directly may be more effective than bringing more attention to the situation in a public setting.
Communicate the action plan
Make sure your entire team knows about your action plan and has access to it at a moment’s notice. Host regular refresher training, make sure everyone knows their role, and alert relevant parties whenever changes are made to the plan.
Rebranding is an effective long-term solution to resolving a crisis that got out of hand. This can look like a name change, a new campaign, or simply a public rededication to company values.
Consider setting up a visitor management system
Your company may get a lot of foot traffic and one way to properly manage your customers, consultants, employees or anyone visiting your property can be properly handled with a visitor management system. Not only does it create a good impression and help with safety and security, but it also helps build a strong reputation by creating a sense of trust and dependency between your organization and the visitor.