Today’s business climate has become quite unpredictable, and a corporate crisis is always right around the corner. No organization, regardless of its size or reputation, is immune to crises. But it isn’t just about a CEO spewing some tone-deaf racial comments anymore, or a corporate apology that only makes things worse. Thanks to technology, one foolish comment can go viral in a matter of hours, and the emperor will dance naked in front of lots of folks.
Mastering the art of crisis management is paramount to all companies that have a public repertoire to maintain. We’ll explore five possible hacks for navigating a crisis, regardless of your company or brand size. But before that, let’s look at some examples of crises and PR tragedies that companies and brands might make.
Possible Examples of Crises
A crisis can come in any shape or form, and companies/brands will either be prepared for it or not. Let’s explore some examples:
Data Breach: Companies need to put in place measures to prevent loss or theft of sensitive company and customer data. Corporations like Equifax, Yahoo, and Marriot International are all examples of companies that have lost customer data leading to PR crises.
Environmental Crisis: Sometimes accidents happen that result in environmental damage, such as oil spills, chemical leaks, or pollution violations. BP is a great example of a company that had to deal with a massive oil spill in 2010 causing billions of dollars in cleanup costs and billions more in punitive damages. This is a popular topic for essays and research papers, therefore look for essay writers for hire if you need help crafting a superb paper.
Natural Disasters: Severe weather events such as earthquakes, floods, or even wildfires can disrupt operations, damage facilities, and even threaten employee safety. Many businesses may be forced to close their operations or find means to work around them, leading to moments of crisis.
Product Recall: These are especially damaging to a company’s reputation since actual human lives might be at stake. If defects or safety issues in a product lead to a recall, the potential for long-term damage to a brand’s reputation is high. For example, Johnson and Johnson in 2022 recalled a lot of its Baby Powder products in the US and Canada after facing lawsuits from consumers who claimed that the product contained asbestos that caused cancer.
Financial Scandal: Allegations of financial misconduct, embezzlement, or fraudulent accounting practices are always in plenty. We don’t need to go too far from Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, or the recent FTX scandal.
Workplace Violence: A Walmart in 2022 shot and killed six people at a store in Chesapeake, Virginia. That was the latest in a string of mass shootings at Walmart stores in the recent past.
Health crises: A health crisis like COVID-19 disrupted millions of businesses, while companies like Chipotle have had to deal with cases of contamination in its food that led to thousands of people falling sick.
Supply Chain Disruption: Due to unforeseen circumstances such as wars, pandemics, or even trade blockades, critical suppliers may experience production delays, transportation issues, or shortages. This may impact product availability in certain areas and concurrently revenue. Just look at the damage that COVID-19 did to the global supply chain to understand this point further.
Reputation Crisis: A “fools moment” can cause negative publicity, social media backlash, or even a scandal affecting the company’s image, brand, and customer trust.
Labor Strikes: Employees can down their tools because of labor disputes, union strikes, or other reasons, causing disruptions and potential financial losses. A recent example of this is the United Auto Workers union strike where some 5,000 workers walked off the job at a highly profitable GM plant in the US.
5 Ways to Properly Navigate a Company Crisis
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Let’s explore how you can effectively navigate or prepare for a company/brand crisis.
1. Have a Crisis Management Strategy
One of the gravest mistakes you can make when facing a crisis is to lack a well-thought-out crisis management strategy. When it comes to crisis preparation, the crisis management plan is your most reliable ally. This plan should be crafted with precision and tested repeatedly before the crisis strikes.
The plan should identify who matters most, who should be told what, and how to react to each party. It should also outline the roles and responsibilities of the people responsible for handling the crisis.
2. Respond in Good Time
One of the importance of a crisis management plan is that you can respond in time. In today’s age of instant information and social media, a late response brews a worse catastrophe. However, a swift response, while necessary, isn’t sufficient on its own.
To make a PR crisis better, a prompt response must encompass several key elements:
- Clearly addressing the issue, laying out the facts, and accepting responsibility.
- Outlining a path forward for resolving the crisis.
- Selecting the appropriate communication channel, depending on the target audience.
For example, when dealing with a crisis affecting millennials and Gen Z, social media may be the primary platform for communication. In contrast, large corporations may opt for traditional methods like press releases to reach their investors.
3. Selecting the Wrong Spokesperson
Many companies and brands caught up in a crisis quickly run to influencers and celebrities to help them quell the public backlash. However, choosing the right spokespeople is paramount, even if it isn’t a crisis.
An ideal spokesperson should have a deep understanding of your company, product, or brand and be trusted by your target people. Ideally, this should be someone from the inside such as a company secretary, or even the CEO or owner themselves. The crisis response also be tailored to different groups depending on what your business is.
4. Overcomplicating Your Response or Apology
When giving a public response to a crisis, always avoid sounding disingenuous by complicating your message, using convoluted statements, or even using words and jargon that sound overly legalistic and insincere. You’ll only risk further alienating your audience and the public. If it is a technical subject, avoid sounding too technical as if to try and excuse your misconduct.
There you have it; a good starting point for how to navigate a company crisis successfully. Crisis management specialists often emphasize the importance of honest, responsible, open, and authentic communication to rebuild trust. The ultimate goal of crisis management is to de-escalate situations while reminding stakeholders of the brand’s core values and mission. While crises are nearly inevitable, success lies in proper planning and effective crisis management techniques.