We’ve all seen it before: a well-known brand posts an offensive tweet, releases an insensitive advertisement or an employee is caught on video mistreating a customer. As a consumer, it can be tempting to indulge in the backlash. But as a business leader, these very public mistakes by other brands can lead to questions: “How would my brand manage a crisis?” or “Is it possible to avoid public ridicule?”
It’s important to understand the crucial role communication can play in improving an already embarrassing or damaging situation. Below are recommendations for how to navigate a crisis and shift the conversation to repairing the relationship with consumers:
- Take an honest look at the conversations about your brand – Scan blogs, newspapers, magazines, and social media to understand why consumers are upset. What are the top three conversation topics, and what is the tone of response? I.e. anger, disappointment, shock, etc. Be honest about the negative perceptions of your brand and how this crisis effects consumers. This will help you articulate a thoughtful response that doesn’t undermine or diminish the cause of the crisis.
- Determine the spokesperson – The person selected to speak on behalf of your brand becomes the face of the crisis and assumes much of the responsibility. It’s therefore important to select the right spokesperson, and in a big crisis, this should almost always be the CEO. This demonstrates that company leadership holds an active role in righting any wrongs.
- Address the crisis head-on and admit wrongdoing – After taking stock of why the crisis is upsetting to consumers, compose a direct and sincere apology for your spokesperson to admit any wrongdoing. A defensive response can often lead to more anger, but an authentic admission of regret and an apology are the first steps to rebuilding trust in your brand.
- Present clear steps on how your brand will repair the relationship with consumers – After issuing the apology, detail in a blog post or through other owned channels how your company will improve the consumer experience. For example, will employees attend a training to avoid similar issues in the future? Will you hire an independent investigator to identify underlying problems in the company culture? Shift the conversations surrounding the crisis in a positive direction by explaining how your brand will make it up to consumers.
A brand crisis is extremely stressful and it can be difficult to believe the backlash will eventually subside. However, remember that through careful thought and clear, authentic communication, a brand can repair its image and rebuild trust with consumers.