Ensuring your brand is crisis ready

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“Most brands are not prepared to deal with negative feedback which, if ignored, can spiral into a crisis. Brands should focus on creating a crisis squad, developing a crisis playbook, envisioning various scenarios that can occur, and what the brand’s response should be,” – The Indestructible Brand

The high velocity world of modern commerce promises profits and pitfalls in equal measure. This duality is characteristic of markets built upon a multiplicity of brands, the drive to remain financially stable, enhanced choices for customers in a landscape of fickle consumers, the need to sustain high visibility in crowded markets, and the imperative to preserve and enhance a distinct brand identity. Therefore, brand managers and corporate strategists must ensure that every brand is crisis ready and uniquely positioned to defend its corporate reputation. This is important because dealing with a crisis speaks eloquently about brand resilience and a brand’s ability to present a clear, long-term value proposition to its fans and followers. We will examine the various techniques that enable brands to deal with crises in the paragraphs below.

Successful business organizations and corporations may occasionally face a brand crisis. This is normal in hyper-competitive business and operational environments. In such a situation, the affected organization must react with alacrity and position itself to ‘contain’ the fallout. This is necessary to prevent damage to the brand reputation, as also to preserve the trust of customers and the faith of multiple stakeholders. Therefore, we may state a brand is crisis ready when it deals with the core problem and initiates actions on multiple levels in a bid to control the crisis. Public relations agencies and fresh advertising campaigns are the tools of choice that empower brands to deal with crises.

Business organizations must have a clear idea of their chosen brand values that enable clients and customers to repose their faith in a brand. In the unfortunate event of a negative situation, the brand must analyze the roots of the crisis and address key issues that triggered the mishap. For instance, a chocolate manufacturer may find itself in the midst of a public relations nightmare stemming from sub-par quality control mechanisms in its manufacturing plants. We note said consumer product is widely marketed and the brand could quickly lose public trust in the aforementioned situation. In reaction, the business must launch a heavily-funded publicity campaign spearheaded by a well-known celebrity that endorses the many qualities of the product. In terms of real world improvements, the chocolate maker must revamp its manufacturing processes and enforce best practices in its manufacturing processes. This instance clearly illuminates that said brand is crisis ready and can withstand the fallout from negative market developments.

Customer service is an integral component in the reputation management of modern brands. Therefore, brands that cater to huge numbers of clients and customers must ensure stellar standards of customer service. For instance, a cable services operator must put in place failsafe mechanisms that cater reasonably to the demands, concerns, and requirements of every individual customer. A stray incident may spark a tsunami of ‘bad press’ and may precipitate a brand crisis. We may state said the brand is crisis ready when the service provider issues a public apology in short order in a concerted attempt at damage control. This is important because a negative brand image encourages customers to migrate to competing service providers. The dented image also forces an impacted brand to cede precious market share to the competition. In light of the above, business managers must demonstrate a brand is crisis ready by organizing and executing necessary actions. We must also point out that a contingency plan should be in place well in advance to deal with unforeseen situations.

Public opinion can be a very sensitive creature in modern times. The best tonic to assuage public outrage can be an outright apology issued without ceremony. For instance, a reputed manufacturer of sporting goods and athletic footwear once caused a brief ‘situation’ when it sent insensitive emails to participants of a certain sporting event. The public reaction was instant as recipients deplored the choice of words and imagery embedded in said communication. The manufacturer realized the error and issued a public apology. This action quickly ‘contained’ the fallout and blocked the bad press that would have hurt the sports brand. Denials and silence would have cast immeasurable damage to the brand and diminished its market prospects. In light of the above, we may state a brand is crisis ready when it chooses to react proactively in the wake of a public gaffe.

The current dominance of social media in the public discourse makes it dangerous for brands that commit a very public mistake or exhibit obvious errors in judgement. Social media platforms are instrumental in amplifying mistakes into a major crisis within minutes. For instance, a commercial travel services company may contribute to the creation of a full-blown crisis when staff members exhibit sub-standard levels of behaviour. Unruly incidents can quickly be broadcast via social media and gain a momentum that may hurt the brand image and market reputation of said travel operator. In a hypothetical scenario, the business may refuse to acknowledge the error and delay issuing a public statement. This delay indicates a poor choice in undertaking actions and confirms that brand is NOT crisis ready. In case the travel operator is listed in the financial markets, its stock price may plummet and its public perception may take the proverbial ‘beating’. We note this instance clearly underlines the necessity of quick reactions in crisis situations.

Staff training and motivation levels represent important planks that ensure a brand is crisis ready. Brands and businesses must train their employees and staff to respond rapidly in a negative situation that might impact business reputations, etc. Corporate chieftains and business managers must invest time and effort to sensitize employees on the importance of preserving brand equity and to safeguard the public image of a brand. Any confusion in such matters can prove disastrous; a bureaucratic stance in such matters can cost brands heavily in terms of lost sales. Therefore, key business managers must be empowered to implement business decisions that will arrest any escalations in a crisis. Once such mechanisms are in place; we may state a brand is crisis ready and equipped to take on the unforeseen.

Businesses that claim their brand is crisis ready must be well positioned to initiate product recalls. This is an important aspect of reinforcing a brand image in the public perception. Brands and businesses must acknowledge the fact that complex, modern manufacturing processes create scope for malfunctions in manufactured products. Therefore, they must have a standard operating procedure when such disruptions come to light. For instance, an automobile manufacturer may be forced to initiate product recalls in the aftermath of failures of certain components in its products. This pro-active stance demonstrates the brand is crisis ready and a responsible corporate citizen. The ‘recall’ may adversely impact the manufacturer’s quarterly and annual financial performance; however, the action also indicates transparency in its public dealings and reinforces its brand credentials in the market.

We have examined some of the techniques that enable commercial brands to deal with crises. These techniques can be refined when commercial organizations steel their resolve to defeat an emerging threat to their existence.

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