Warren Buffet famously said, “”It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
Crises are not new. From data breaches to poorly thought-out tweets, it’s not if, but when a crisis will impact your organization. And the COVID-19 pandemic proved that too many businesses are unprepared to manage a crisis. The pandemic has also shown just how important it is for a business to communicate to its customers during difficult times.
When emotions and stakes are running high, the right messages must be delivered at just the right moment. Now is a good time to revisit your response to a crisis so your organization can be better prepared for future crises, particularly when it comes to communicating with your most important stakeholders. The actions you take and words you say can stabilize or escalate the crisis. Therefore, it’s critical to understand the do’s and don’ts of crisis communications.
Consider the following best practices for dealing with a crisis:
There is a lot of information out there. It’s critical to sort out what’s true and what’s false. Gathering all the facts enables you to respond appropriately and avoid having to distribute multiple statements and apologies. Having to issue a correction will undermine your efforts and could position you poorly among customers, prospects and partners.
It doesn’t matter if a crisis occurs overnight or on the weekend or a holiday—it’s important to respond immediately to keep the situation from worsening. A consumer survey found that 64% of consumers hold brands responsible for addressing inappropriate or harmful comments made on their owned social media pages, and 63% expect brands to address inappropriate or harmful content on their pages within an hour. Responding immediately allows you to shape and control the narrative.
When responding quickly, you may not have all the answers, and that’s okay. It’s better to be transparent and clear in all communications. If you don’t know something, say so. Limited, but honest information is better than no information. If mistakes were made, own up to them.
When Lululemon was using fabric that was too sheer for its yoga pants, the CEO failed to apologize and instead said some women’s bodies don’t work for the brand’s pants. The incident cost the company $67 million in sales. Honesty and clarity demonstrate credibility. Communicate a clear picture of what went wrong and how you plan to resolve the issue.
Keep your organization out of hot water by keeping the below recommendations in mind:
When a crisis occurs, you will be flooded with requests for information. Having a crisis communication plan in place shows that you’re ready and in control. It will save you and your team time, confusion and stress.
When the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill, the NBA implemented its pandemic protocols from the crisis management guide it distributes internally and to teams every year. After suspending the season on March 11, 2020, they created a bubble in Orlando in which 172 games were completed over two-plus months without a single player, league official, or team staffer testing positive for the novel coronavirus.
It may be tempting to wait for the situation to blow over but ignoring it only risks even further fallout. When you fail to address a crisis, you essentially give up control of it and your ability to resolve it. This can also make it difficult to preserve your organization’s reputation. People are more likely to forgive an admitted mistake but won’t forget your inability to act.
An external crisis can quickly become an internal one if you don’t communicate your plan with employees. Don’t forget to keep employees informed instead of allowing then to learn about the issue from other sources (social media, news, etc.). It’s also a good idea to provide some guidelines or talking points for employees to use during their professional and personal interactions. Employees should be your best advocates. By empowering them with information and resources, they can help your business maneuver the crisis successfully.
No business or organization can be prepared for every scenario – who could’ve predicted a year-long, worldwide pandemic? But there are steps every business can take to be ready to communicate clearly during a crisis. Adhering to the above do’s and don’ts is a step in the right direction that can offer numerous benefits when a crisis strikes.
Mulberry can create a custom crisis communication plan to help your organization navigate challenges and maintain trust among your target audiences. Contact us to learn more today!
Christina Alvarez is an Associate Director at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. With nearly a decade of communications agency experience, she enjoys securing media relations wins and positioning clients as industry thought leaders.