Create a crisis response team. Business leaders are a valuable asset but cannot handle a complex crisis alone. Assembling a diverse team means a greater perspective on the varying public perceptions and reactions. 

This team can be created in house, but if you’re a small company it may be also beneficial to seek the assistance of experts through an agency. 

The team strategy should include a priority list to determine who should be notified at each level of crisis severity, a chain of command and approval, and the selection of a spokesperson. This individual should have authority, skills well suited to the situation and sufficient training to ensure adaptability. 

The whole team needs to be prepared for the flood of information requests. A good way to keep on top of this is by making a to do list and to keep updating it as the crisis evolves. The first thing on this list should be to ensure that the contact information of allies, journalists, influences and lawyers are easily accessible. 

Draft messages ahead of the crisis. This is a challenge as it’s hard the predict the detailed nature of the crisis ahead of time. But you only have to check the news and social media to see how and why brands are attacked.

Map out potential issues then draft potential responses – media statements, news releases, social media templates – for possible situations. You can’t cover everything, but it means you’ll have a bank of resources, prepared when you weren’t in the middle of an unfolding crisis with customers demanding answers across social media.

When you do address a challenging situation be honest and apologetic; refusing to answer questions can be more damning than any response.  Attempting to deny or downplay any details of the crisis can create future issues and further tarnish your brand. 

Apologies do not mean an admission of guilt. You can be sorry for what has happened, sorry for people’s upset and worries, whilst still establishing the facts of a situation. 

As well as saying sorry, offer a brief explanation and explain what you are doing about it – setting up a hotline to handle calls from concerned customers, launching an investigation and working closely with the police… Of course the action will depend on the situation. The key is to take action. And if there is information you don’t have – be honest. We can’t comment in detail, but as soon as we know more, we will update you.

Don’t make false promises in this process; evidence of your posts will remain online and consumers will feel betrayed by unfulfilled offers. 

Empathise with your consumers but don’t flood channels as this can draw further attention to the event. The level of engagement will depend on the severity of the situation. The more public interest, the more you need to be out there actively engaged to show your brand cares and is responding. 

Finally, conduct a post crisis review. Whilst your business may have taken a hit, it’s important to stay optimistic about the future. By reflecting on which aspects of the crisis response were handled well you can ensure they are handled similarly in any future situations. Similarly, by identifying weak spots you can brainstorm alternative approaches to better suit your company’s needs. Continue to monitor responses as a crisis which appears to have been squashed can return even months later.

 

Astley Media supports brands with their communications and marketing, including in crisis situations. Talk to us about how we can help support your organisation hello@astleymedia.co.uk