Plan for the worst with a comprehensive crisis management strategy.
Disaster is bound to strike, and smart marketers are ready when it does. Preparation for brand backlash is a marketing must, so it’s important to create a crisis management plan that’ll mitigate damage and maximize goodwill. Crisis management strategy needs to be implemented quickly, planned for ahead of time, and adjusted to accommodate future expectations.
Crisis Management is About Marketing
The focus of any crisis management strategy should be clear, comprehensive instruction and the providing of material to appropriate parties for direction and information dissemination. Put simply, who needs to do what and when?
In times of crisis–be they a product failure (like Samsung’s recent Galaxy Note 7 explosion and product line cancellation), sudden upper management reorganization, corruption, bankruptcy, and any number of small or large in-betweens that can affect your brand while your business grows–you need to be ahead of the action. You may not have the details when you create your crisis management strategy, but you’ll at least have an outline to help navigate common obstacles like how to deal with the media or manage internal communications. Don’t forget, a crisis management plan is essentially a multi-faceted marketing strategy.
Important Crisis Management Elements to Remember
Often during a crisis, consumers can view your brand as the enemy. This is bad for business, and it’s crucial to rebuilding a sense of trust in order to repair any damage. Consumers expect a certain level of customer satisfaction, and it’s common for businesses to alienate people with misguided or stubborn crisis management strategies.
Each public relations problem is unique, but here are a few important pointers to consider when you put your plan down on paper:
- Keep calm: It’s easy to escalate a situation when emotions are high, which is why you need to approach crisis management with a level head from an objective vantage point. Media statements made in anger can lead to even more headache in the long run.
- Manage the media: The old adage that any attention is good attention is misguided garbage when it comes to brand management. Bad attention is bad attention. Period. You may not be able to control the media and what information makes it to the public, but you can have the first word and be in front of the conversation. Outsider information can be spotty at best and wild speculation at worst, so don’t wait for someone else to break the story if disaster strikes.
- Tell the truth: When you knowingly provide false information to the public, it’s almost impossible to backtrack and regain that trust. Your audience wants you to be transparent, especially when you’re managing crisis communications, and a lie is even worse saying nothing at all. You don’t have to share everything, but what information you can share needs to be 100% truthful.
- Be empathic: You may feel like consumers are attacking your brand, but most of the time businesses aren’t the victims in crisis management situations. An objective, empathic approach will always be more successful toward consumers than an aggressive, defensive position. Do your best to understand audience expectations.
Identify, Act, React
In an ideal world, businesses would be able to prevent a crisis before it happened, but you know it’s impossible to always see adversity coming. The next best thing is to identify a problem early before it spirals out of control. Time, often days or even hours, can do the most damage if you’re not aware something is askew. One way to keep your finger on the pulse is to actively engage in conversations surrounding your web and social media marketing so you know who’s saying what about your brand.
Once you’ve identified a problem that needs to be addressed, it’s important to act fast but not overreact. Control the conversation, don’t make rushed emotional decisions, and use pre-planned crisis management tactics to implement important marketing strategies.
You can assess the damage once the dust has settled, which is a perfect time to refine any crisis management steps that didn’t work as you’d hoped. Adjust, consider variables you may have missed, and tighten your tactics in preparation for the next rollout. Negative consumer opinions affect the general public’s perception of your brand now more than ever, which is why it’s your job to plan for the worst in order to ensure the best outcome possible when adversity comes knocking.