Social media has completely altered the business landscape; communication between brands and their customers is more reciprocal now than ever before and this has given customers greater visibility. This has improved customer service and has enabled companies to get more accurate feedback from customers, which in turn helps them to improve their business offerings.
However, it also means that there is a much more effective platform for disgruntled customers to rant on and an easier avenue for scandals to develop. One thing is for sure, social media has increased the probability of companies facing a crisis of some sort.
All companies are going to be faced with tackling a crisis of some degree and how you handle it could be the make or break of your brand. If the last couple of years have shown us anything, it’s that a large number of companies don’t have effective crisis management in place and as such, spiral out of control.
Here are our top tips for handling a brand crisis like a pro:
The most important aspect of being able to handle a company crisis is having a comprehensive plan in place. Your reputation stands to be destroyed in just a few hours and as such a crisis management plan is as crucial as your sales and marketing plans and guidelines.
Map out the key people in your organisation that will step up to be the face of handling the issue at hand and ensure that they know what is expected of them. Have pre-planned templates that can be edited – the number one way to tackle a crisis is as fast as you can.
Remember to identify any specific threats that you may encounter and have separate plans in place for the main issues that are customised to deal with them on an individual basis.
Before diving headfirst into your crisis plan, ensure that you understand the issue and have a full picture on what is causing it. Find out exactly what has happened, how it happened and how the media and your customers are reacting to it.
Use your media monitoring tools to find out how widespread the problem is, how negative the reaction is and whether it is coming from a single source or many. This last point is important, as it could be better to approach a single source crisis than address the general public.
You should have your public-facing people in place for a crisis from your pre-planning and now is the time to notify them about the crisis, explain it to them in detail and let them know what is expected of them going forward.
Think about the people that are going to be impacted by the crisis and change your message according to the targeted audience. Is it something that is mainly going to affect your customers? Or is it your employees, investors and stakeholders that are also going to be impacted? Check in with them to see how they are responding.
How you respond to a crisis is going to determine whether your company comes out of it relatively unscathed. Make sure that you do not just brush over the issue, but rather identify the problem, acknowledge it and tell people how you are going to fix it going forward.
The size and impact of the crisis will determine the way and the channel through which you handle it. If it’s a massive crisis, then think of any journalists that you are on good terms with in order to get out a press release, but if it’s a smaller, more manageable issue then you could do a video or written statement on your social media and website.
It’s key to know your audience and where your message is going to be heard more effectively.
Ensure that you know how your message is being responded to and whether it’s been effective enough to stop the issue or whether you need to do more to allay the doubts in your customers and stakeholders.
Once you’ve managed to put out the fire and you are back on track, it’s important to go over the crisis within your company to ensure that you don’t repeat the same mistakes and that you learn from the experience going forward. A company crisis is an excellent opportunity in learning how to avoid another.