3 Steps to Make Any Brand Crisis Situation Much, Much Worse

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Many business leaders may want to think their organizations are completely secure against brand crises, but most brands will in fact experience some kind of PR or social crisis at some point. In fact, your team may need to survive several brand crises (sometimes in quick succession) and if your company is lucky enough to have never experienced a negative social or PR situation, just wait.

If you’re one of those lucky few yet to deal with a social, PR, or brand crisis management situation, here are the top three absolute worst steps you can take to try to make things right. Not only could these make matters much worse for you personally, but you’ll also negatively impact your brand’s perception and potential business performance in the future.


Step 1: Act like nothing is wrong.

It’s just a regular day at the office when your company is trending on Twitter with its own hashtag that your social team unfortunately didn’t plan on promoting this quarter, right? All organizations want to be the topic of dozens of negative and potentially damaging news articles from multiple countries in less than 24 hours, don’t they? Isn’t all press good press?

In today’s hyper-competitive, highly visible world of extremely aware consumers with instant access to make or break your company with a few dexterous thumb moves, bad press is just that: bad. You can’t ignore when your CRM threshold reporting suddenly goes through the roof and continues to operate at maximum volume – it’s not just a blip or a data error. The more you avoid addressing the situation, the more likely it is to continue growing beyond your control into a problem that could do serious damage to your reputation and your bottom line.

Waiting to respond to see if the situation resolves itself is setting your brand up for extended mockery via meme, and can lead to an even more furious backlash against other unrelated areas of your business if it’s not addressed quickly enough. Engage on social media and through multiple channels as soon as possible, and you might be able to slow things down sooner than if you’d waited until the next business day to address the problem.


Step 2: Offer a non-apology (bonus points for excessive legal language).

So you’ve talked to legal and you’ve constructed the most carefully worded, measured, impossible-to-offend response to the crisis in under 280 characters that can be broadcast around the world that will effortlessly settle the whole situation down. It’s the ultimate CYA response: mistakes were made, your company feels deep regret at any offense the general public might have experienced, employees were following protocol, etc.

Post that, and the social media world will tell you exactly where to put that non-apology, no matter how many rounds of revisions you’ve been through with your legal, marketing, and social teams.

Despite the mob mentality that can seemingly take over the entire Internet when they’re calling for a boycott of your brand (and potentially your head as well), one thing most people do understand is that businesses are run by humans, and humans make mistakes. As a visible leader or representative for your brand, it’s okay to admit those mistakes, as long as you’re up front and honest about them.

Respond to the crisis in simple, clear, straight-forward language. Own the situation and explain what steps are being taken to resolve it and make things right as soon as you can. Once you’ve made an actual apology, follow through on it.


Step 3: Repeat.

If there’s anything worse than one brand crisis after another in a span of just a few weeks, it’s experiencing yet another crisis less than a year later. It’s one thing to have a couple of bad days, but it’s another thing entirely to watch your brand suffer as a result of poor customer service interactions, inefficient employee communications, and overall lack of willingness to make changes as a result of previous events.

Stay active and vigilant with your social listening programs in the weeks, months, and even years following the resolution of a brand crisis. Update your CRM to include dynamic fields related to the incident and ensure customers impacted by the problem are reached out to directly and consistently with relevant goodwill offerings in order to hopefully regain their trust and retain their business.

Brand crisis management is all about communicating the right message to your customers and the general public after something hasn’t gone according to your brand playbook. We’ve seen some best practices around successful crisis management recently, but more often than not, we see worst practices that only make the situation worse: ignoring the problem, non-apologizing, and then making the same mistakes again.

To see the three steps you should be taking to handle your brand crisis management and survive, download the white paper 3 Steps to Protect Your Brand Reputation from a Crisis.


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