Crisis management is a lot more than just reacting to a situation that goes wrong. In this digital era where negative news travels faster than a bushfire, it’s crucial to have a strategy in place to prevent manageable issues from turning into disasters.
If you don’t get a public crisis under control, it can harm your business and have irreversible effects like tarnishing your brand and reputation and tanking your sales. An effective crisis management strategy enables you to keep your current customers and maintain a level of public trust.
That is why we at Hearts Agency adopted a positive approach to crisis management. We are passionate about helping your business preserve your hard-earned reputation. We believe that experience, leadership, teamwork, mental agility, and clarity of thought are crucial when dealing with issues that can turn into a crisis.
Three Stages of Crisis Management
No organisation is immune to a crisis whether it’s a PR crisis or a social media crisis. That’s why you can’t afford to bury your head in the sand, hoping that nothing will go wrong.
At Hearts Agency, we use a three-fold strategy that helps businesses minimize the amount of damage following a crisis so that they can continue doing what they do best.
Prevention is Critical
- React effectively, guided by a carefully thought-out plan, so you don’t have to figure it out along as you go which will save you from several headaches
- Predict the potential escalation, so you can respond quicker and more efficiently
- Form a constructive dialogue, so you can win your customers trust back
Prepare in advance to avoid the panic from being caught by surprise, and maintain a level head when responding to a crisis.
When creating a crisis prevention plan, keep the following in mind:
- It’s crucial to review and update the plan periodically
- Bring a crisis management team together
- Hold regular media training and crisis simulations
- Identify your main crisis communication channels
- Have your crisis management team prepare crisis management statements and messages, ready for use in a crisis
Our team can help you create a crisis prevention plan and train your crisis management team so you don’t have to start planning from scratch.
Handling a Crisis
As communication specialists, we know what it takes to craft the right messaging for your specific situation. We ensure that the statement ethically and adequately addresses the main issue while exhibiting your organisation’s capability to handle the situation.
Our golden rules of crisis communication include:
- Listening from the beginning, aiming to fully understand the allegations/claims of the crisis.
- Immediately responding to help you report the original version of the crisis and prevent rumors and wrong interpretations
- Creating a consistent and unified response within the company
- Portraying accuracy and truth
- Putting proper escalation measures in place
- Maintaining clear communication with clients through frequent updates
- Taking visible measures to address the crisis while demonstrating accountability
Issuing a Statement
People usually want action immediately during a crisis and this isn’t always possible due to the nature of most businesses, in this case, we recommend issuing a pre-statement to show immediate action. This can look like this:
We have been made aware of one of our team members acting outside of our company’s policies and are investigating now. We aim to respond once we have all of the information. Thank you for your patience.
We often find that owning the situation via a statement can greatly help you during your crisis. A well structured statement can help you focus the social media attention and backlash possible into one place. This allows for more consistent moderation and more constructive discussion. Not creating a single place for your customers to voice their opinions can cause the backlash to spill into more channels such as other online review platforms.
Customers want to be heard and they want to let companies know when they’ve messed up. Allowing your customers to voice their opinions is a very important first step towards forgiveness.
Once you’ve let your customers voice their concerns, you can start to respond. One of the best places to start is by telling them that you understand how they feel. This cannot be disingenuous or fake. If you really want to hear people, it needs to come from a place of compassion and empathy.
A good place to start is by conducting a survey, this can be a great way to allow your customers to let you know how they feel in a single place on the internet. This survey can provide you with further insights and clarification on what people want, plus it can lead to more ideas which you may have not considered.
Once you have the data, publishing the findings and the organisational changes can actually turn your crisis into a positive experience for your customers. It shows your organisation identified a problem, sought counsel from their customers and then acted in the appropriate manner.
We’ve found great success when it came to analysing the results from these surveys. For example, a brand was facing some severe backlash from their customers after the release of one of their campaigns which failed to be inclusive. The brand sought to first understand their customers better so we released some questions via a survey. Here are some excerpts from their customers.
Which communities would you like to see in our social media?
- The disability community…I work as a personal trainer with many beautiful, stylish and confident young women with a disability and they just want and need to see themselves represented in mainstream advertising. It would mean the world to Them And to people like me that strive to make them feel included!
- Plus size community. No visibility in your campaign or grid
- More diversity. More POC and people of all sizes.
How would you like us to reach these communities?
- With real content that showcases real lives, not just influencers and product for post marketing
- Advertise hiring process through different outlets eg social media, job websites etc advising you are looking to include more diversity in your company
- Visibility. Engagement. Respect.
These learnings have been applied and integrated into new companies policies such a new hiring policy, influencer policy and inclusivity policy which have been revealed online to much positive sentiment. Taking the time to understand what your customers want leads to greater brand trust and loyalty.
Bill Gates once said “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”. Unhappy customers should be valued within your business. Many unhappy customers will simply take their business elsewhere without giving you a second chance.
Company Founder at Centre of the Crisis
If your crisis is centered around the company founder or a particular person in your organisation, we recommend that they are not involved in the response team. Being individually targeted during a crisis is incredibly stressful and unpleasant. Being personally involved can also lead to poorly crafted responses. We recommend that a third party or external team is in charge of responses who are not emotionally involved. This distance will lead to better responses. A time for defence and a statement can be crafted in conjunction with the founder or individual, however, the initial influx of messages needs to be handled away from the person being targeted.
Post-Crisis Management and Reputation Repair
Once the crisis is out of your way, it’s essential to identify the adverse outcomes and draft additional actions to neutralise the situation. Again, the focus should be on stabilising your organisation’s affected reputation and improving your public image. Providing further updates once the heat has died down often leads to more constructive and productive conversations. In the heat of the moment, it’s likely your business will receive a substantial amount of negative comments.
The measures you take at this point include publicising the actions you took to address the crisis and the lessons learnt. At this stage, you can also go back to long-term planning based on comprehensive risk assessment. The phase entails establishing new rules and enhancing existing ones to address factors that lead to the initial crisis.
To adequately respond to issues and crises, you must understand the existing gaps in your company’s crisis response capability. Our team at Hearts Agency has deep experience to walk you through this complex process. If you are in the midst of a crisis or you would like help in preparing for one, please contact us and one of our specialists will be in touch.
PRIORITY CONTACT FORM
We will be in touch ASAP. We can usually start managing your crisis within hours.