Brand crises can be devastating to a business’ long-term outlook.
Marketing Week notes that dealing with a brand crisis can affect every single member of the business team from the CEO down. In the past companies might have been able to gloss things over or try to avoid the spread of a PR disaster. Today, however, with social media just waiting to rip into brands that drop the ball, trying to gloss things over and pretend nothing happened is more likely to earn ire than respect.
Corporate apology ads are also likely to get users up in arms and might even lead to widespread boycotts of products or services. Business News Daily cites the lack of sincerity as the reason why apology ads are seen as undesirable by consumers. It makes the brand into a nameless, faceless organization, which makes it easier for consumers to recognize the company as something inhuman and hate it or ignore it more. So how does a company deal with a potential public relations disaster?
1) React Quickly
As mentioned before, social media and the digital information age makes it nearly impossible to out-react the storm. By the time word gets back to the company that it’s the center of a public relations nightmare, the chance for slowing or stopping the fallout is already past. The only response at this point is to react swiftly. The Defnsys Group mentions that in any crisis that involves a business, the reaction should be swift, but not rash.
2) Be Honest in Your Approach
Consumers value honesty because it builds trust. As Forbes rightly points out, being honest is in the same realm as credibility. For customers to go back to trusting a company, they need to retrieve the trust they had in that organization. The first step for the company to rebuild that trust is, to be honest about things. Consumers tend to reward brands that are genuine when dealing with customers because it humanizes the company and makes them more relatable.
3) Engage, But Don’t Apologize
The apparent exception to the rule is when there is genuinely a problem with what the company’s spokesperson said. If there isn’t an obvious problem, then to find out the issues with communication, the company should engage those who feel offended by it in a discussion. Axia Public Relations reveals that simply apologizing for something isn’t enough. The company needs to understand why it offended consumers and how to avoid doing so in the future.
4) Open Communication Lines
In a continually connected world like we have in the twenty-first century, having free and open communication is expected. Social media channels allow for the quick and simple exchange of information as well as a means of growing the discussion around a particular topic. Using two-way channels of communication like one-way channels sets a company up for a fall when it comes to a PR disaster. Consumers begin feeling as though the brand is preaching to them, and it may drive away even loyal customers.
5) Be Clear About the Message
Consistency is the other element that builds confidence in a brand. In the event of a public relations disaster, a company must have a single point of truth that the media and customers can go to for information. This unique source of truth should be consistent in its message and should aim to be clear about what is being done to address the problems that led to the brand crisis. Zoll Data notes that the most effective method for delivering these statements is direct and straightforward in what the spokesperson (or account, if social media is the chosen interaction forum) says.
6. Own Up to Your Faults
When you’re wrong, you’re wrong. No matter how a company tried to rationalize being wrong, it just makes them seem as though they’re trying to avoid responsibility. Own up for the company’s faults and vow to do better. Inc. uses KFC as an example to demonstrate how a company should say sorry and mean it. Owning up isn’t the end of the world, and it shows that the company is self-aware enough to know when it’s done wrong.
7. Plan for the Future
A company’s faults shouldn’t be seen as a brick wall, but rather an opportunity to learn. A public relations disaster is only a complete disaster if the company doesn’t learn anything from it. Each misstep is a chance to do better and to learn from mistakes. No one, not even a corporate entity is perfect. Public relations might be hell on the day that the mishap occurs, but eventually, the company will recover. However, how it comes out of the brand crisis and what it learns from it depends wholly on how the team approaches the problem when they deal with it.
Real Brands Are Resilient
Recovering from a PR crisis is more than just a simple matter of waiting for it all to blow over. Doing that will damage the brand’s reputation in the eyes of consumers and will weaken the company’s image. A far better choice would be to take the bull by the horns and be proactive in dealing with the issue. Social media is a minefield of people just waiting to be offended by something, and a company will inevitably run into one or more during its time in operation. How the business handles that situation will tell whether it’ll thrive as a business, or die on the altar of hubris.