Companies spend years and a lot of effort in building their brand, establishing their reputation. Then problem and or crisis hits; overnight, brand, CEOs and their teams are under siege.
When it comes to managing a serious problem or crisis, every second counts. These days our clients, potential customers, staff and stakeholders are demanding new levels of transparency and accountability.
Know this, every company is or will be in some sort of crisis at some point in time. Those that answer the call transform a PR crisis into an opportunity. Those that don’t, risk everything.
Case Study – 2007 THE RECALL YEAR: `LEAD PAINT IN TOYS`
Defective products supplied by 3rd parties can be brand threatening, and reputation-damaging and create public anxiety. Dubbed the Year of the Recall, 2007 saw three major crises – toys, pet food, and spinach – unflattering front-page coverage resulted.
The Toy Problem
As lawmakers and regulators set about punishing the whole toy industry for the rampant safety problems of Chinese-made toys (i.e. lead paint etc.), Hasbro, the world’s second-largest toymaker, even though they were not under regulators interest; was at risk of facing the same public scrutiny and condemnation as its targeted competitors.
At your moment of truth, when your companies reputation, repute and standing is at risk, your character is at stake, when the future of your business is in jeopardy; You need to be able to rely on and fall back on a pre-arranged process.
Crisis management requires more than an apologetic press release or a managers’s insincere or bias appearance in the media.
These days news goes viral in a blink of an eye. Companies must be ready to respond to misfortunes and crisis swiftly and decisively, using all platforms to communicate with the public.
Predicament is the Key
Preparing for a crisis is the most important part of any crisis/problem response plan.
Whether you’re a major corporation, a family owned business or a high-profile individual; it pays to think three steps ahead.
The Three Steps to Assurance
Step 1. Crisis Preparedness/Readiness
- Risk assessments
- Crisis plans & response guides across product and service
- Crisis communications strategy development
- Crisis training and simulations
- Media and Social Media training
Step 2. Crisis Response
When a Public Relations crisis rears its head, the public perception fallout can be instant and ruthless. This is where you initiate your Step 1 preparedness/readiness plans.
Step 2 will require sound:
- Comprehensive response training
- Message development (statements, press releases, articles and more)
- Media & Social Media relations
- Online monitoring
- Third-party ally development
- Online reputation management
The Toy Story: Response Approach
Hasbro designed and implemented a high-impact PR marketing plan called “Operation Gold Standard.” The objective was to clearly segregate Hasbro from its competitors and reinforce its brand as the absolute best for product safety.
An industry crisis turned to a `win` for Hasbro from a bad industry situation; unlike their competitors they fortified their product as safe and reliable, therefore strengthened their position.
Step 3. Post-Crisis Recovery
- Impact assessment
- Stakeholder communications
- Change management and Continuous Improvement
- Reputation restoration and rebuilding
The Toy Story: Recovery Results
Hasbro’s approach radically amplified public awareness of the safety of Hasbro products, and steadfastly reminded the public that the company was unaltered by the recall. Customer apprehension was reassured and as importantly the trust of regulators reinforced, the Hasbro brand emerged stronger than ever.
A crisis turned into an opportunity.
The Art of Crisis/Serious Problem FAQ’s
Your Crisis Frequently Asked Questions should include:
- Acknowledgement of the crisis
- Elements about the incident
- Evidence – photos or videos, etc.
- How did you or the company found out
- Specific actions taken in response
- Real or potential effects
- Continuous improvement process i.e. steps to stop it happening again
Have templates pre-organised in each of the three previously mentioned steps.
Most importantly, companies that make mistakes must sincerely accept responsibility for their actions – not distance themselves from them. Do so, then fix the issue, offer bonus, concession, discount, and extra services to win your space back – but never deny or rebuff.
About being sorry; we live in a world of clemency, of forgiveness. We’ve forgiven Exxon, Tylenol, Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, Mike Tyson, nearly all car companies and a scallywag’s galleria of corporate and individual scoundrels. If you say you’re sorry, and you mean it you also will be forgiven.
Ask; have you ever dared to ask your ex-clients why they didn’t renew their contract of services with you, why did they appoint your competitor? Or maybe you got reappointed, once you admitted to poor performance then offered self-improvement.
Crisis Happens – Bid to Engage
There’s no cure-all method to remedy company and business crisis, but there are lessons to be learned from past successes and failures.
Be prepared, Respond accordingly and recover quickly – all through sound preplanning, provision and effort.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
Step IN and leverage crisis to create opportunity.
Until next time.