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How to… avoid a brand crisis

A company’s reputation is in the hands of consumers. Fires can start with barely a catalyst, so making sure you know how to douse the flames is essential.
The public have always exerted some influence over the business world, but in the social media age they can bring a corporation to its knees. Twitter is unquestionably democratic, and the nature of the web means scandal goes global in hours, if not minutes. As such a response needs to be swift, meaningful, and well targeted.
It’s a key lesson that must be learnt. Toyota took days to respond to last year’s panic surrounding cars being recalled due to brake and accelerator problems, although they did ultimately win plaudits for their mid term handling of the damaging situation. And more recently Beko’s reputation was burnt to the ground after safety issues emerged concerning models linked to domestic fires, and the company neglected to enlist adequate customer service staff to deal with the panic.
These examples may be due to bad planning, a complete lack of judgement, or (most probably) a combination of both. Either way neither firm’s response was properly thought through. And it’s not just internationally recognised brands that should be prepared, as every business needs to be sure it can keep calm and carry on.  Here are a few pointers to help you prepare for damage limitation.

What is a crisis?
A crisis is not an emergency. Companies consistently encounter serious problems they can’t predict, but only when a brand’s long term reputation is at risk, there is a threat of legal action or widespread public furore can it be called a real crisis. These usually come in two types- the self inflicted, and unexpected.

It’s a self inflicted crisis, not rocket science
Companies get into hot water unnecessarily on a daily basis, with poor use of social networking for business a common cause. If you use a dedicated team of communications specialists, provide media training to any associated staff, and brief all spokespeople well then there’s far less risk involved.
The glass is never half full
A corporate crisis can happen at any time. That means anticipating the worst is vital. Pre-appoint a crisis team, create a focused contact lists of trusted connections, allocate physical assets that can be used to manage disasters, shortlist any likely ‘Doomsday’ scenarios, then plan how to rectify them.
The Survivalist’s Handbook
Acting fast is business critical. Develop a guide to immediate responses, detailing stock statements for common situations, and prioritise the channels of communication so everyone is clear on what to say, and where. Issue this to all staff, and make sure copies are taken home- disasters care little for weekends.
Fire drills
Installing an alarm system is useless unless someone tests it in the office to make sure it not only works, but achieves the desired results efficiently. Simulate scenarios from the most likely crises and have staff walk through the agreed response so that things run smoothly when a real world disaster strikes.

Recycle the fallout
When the worst happens it’s easy to forget that vital information is being received during any brand saving campaign. Monitor all messages you send out and assess where, and how well these are communicated. Then adjust your strategy accordingly to develop the best possible plan for the future.

Keep an eye out for future blogs on crisis management

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