Brands miss a mandate in the event of a crisis

Every brand sooner or later ends up in a crisis. And then being able to act directly in this social media era is an important challenge. Response times have dropped to a few minutes. This requires excellent preparation for the most important and most likely risks that the brand runs.

In addition, obtaining a mandate is an important condition for speed and thus effective crisis communication. Often it is the top of the organization who obstructs it because they hope it will blow over or it is lawyers who argue because not all the facts of the problem are known yet.

Cultural aspect
Crisis mandate is directly linked to the culture of the organization. Organizations that have an open (communication) culture with a lot of sensitivity to the environment are better able to communicate effectively in times of crisis. They also usually recognize the importance of communicating the bad news themselves in times of crisis or of coming up with process communication immediately after the outbreak of a crisis. This creates direction and shows leadership. But for organizations where this culture is less present, it takes more persuasion to act like that. And in those cases, a problem quickly arises. Because if the social media storm goes off outside, it is often impossible to get approval for the proposed communication campaigns inside. And that while the current time demands an initial response within a few minutes.

This is how you realize change
Brands would therefore do well to think about how they – in times of a crisis – can reduce or remove resistance in their organizations: communicating first – stealing thunder – or communicating directly from the process. With the tips below you can take a big step in the right direction.

Seven tips for reducing or removing resistance

1. Awareness session: in the end everything starts with awareness of those involved in the crisis. Certainly the management and lawyers play an important role in approving crisis communication actions. They will therefore have to be aware of the changing environment of the brand and the impact this has on crisis communication. Organize a workshop for this group, in which a crisis communication expert introduces them to the world of today and the demands that are currently placed on the crisis response of brands.

2. Risk inventory and process communication: make a risk inventory for your brand together with the various sections of the organization. Look at all the risks that could possibly lead to a crisis. The cause of crises is very wide. Risks that often lead to brand crises include: product defects, customer complaints, campaigns, social media attacks and privacy issues. Prioritize risks by likelihood and impact on brand reputation, then prepare process communication tactics and content for core risks. Discuss this analysis and approach with the top and the lawyers of the organization, so that consensus is created about the solution direction.

3. Crisis simulation: organize a crisis simulation for one or more of the core risks for your brand. This gives you the opportunity to make the decision-makers feel in practice that the pressure is immediately high when a crisis breaks out and process communication is expected. You can also gain experience with mandated process communication. Evaluate the exercise afterwards and identify areas for improvement together with the top.

4. Environmental and sentiment analysis: during a real crisis, make sure that you immediately start making an environmental analysis and monitoring for your brand. What does the environment say and think about your brand and what are they going to do? This provides insight into the sentiment of the customer and other stakeholders within and outside the organization. With that insight, it is easier to convince the decision-makers in the organization of the need for action.

5. Adversary in crisis team: choose an external “contender” with authority in your brand’s crisis team. Forcing strange eyes. If people are afraid of process communication immediately after the crisis has arisen, the adversary can help increase the pressure in the crisis team. Gain experience with this in crisis simulations.

6. Focus on process communication: always separate process communication and substantive communication. The excuse “we don’t know anything yet, so we don’t communicate” will then not be valid. After all, process communication is always possible. Even within 5 minutes of the start of a crisis. In the first phase, you can communicate smoothly and securely on the process. So prepare the core risks and have this process approach approved by the top of the organization and the lawyers. Of course you always have to fine-tune the eventual crisis, but it provides comfort and speed when there is a mandate.

7. Evaluate and learn: it is important to learn from every crisis of your brand – small or large. So make sure you evaluate the crisis within two weeks at the latest and see where things can be improved next time. Also take a good look at the ‘golden hour’ of the crisis. Were you able to act directly? How did the reconciliation and approval processes go? Did the process communication meet the expectations of the environment? And what was the reputation or even financial damage that the crisis caused to your brand? Discuss this evaluation with the top again and determine points for improvement together.

Avoid backlog
With these tips, it is possible to gradually change thinking about the first phase of the crisis response. As a brand manager, it is important to get started with this and to have the conversation about the crisis response in the organization actively and in peacetime. The question is not whether a crisis will occur, but when it will happen. And then you better be optimally prepared and supported by the top of the organization. Otherwise, you will be directly behind in a crisis and will be forced on the defensive. While leadership and the attack are the best starting position for effective crisis communication.

This blog has also been published by SWOCC.