Despite the best planning, marketers sometimes have to cope with disasters—of the natural unnatural, or self-inflicted kind. Like when your product fails in a very public way or a company VP does something very, very bad. That’s when you’ve got to implement crisis communications to get ahead of public opinion.
What Crisis Communications Looks Like
In a nutshell, crisis communication is a tactical plan created to protect and defend an individual or company in the face of a public threat to its reputation.
The good (well handled): In 1982, seven people died after taking store-bought Tylenol capsules that had been laced with cyanide. Johnson & Johnson responded by putting the safety of its customers first: in addition to their highly publicized recall, the company made sure its other efforts, such as working with the FBI and offering a reward for information, were kept front and center in the media. The brand made a full recovery.
The bad: When credit-giant Equifax took their time in revealing a massive 2017 data breach; then, as their remedy, offered consumers access to Equifax’s own poorly regarded and expensive credit monitoring services.
The ugly: After the cataclysmic 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP’s CEO issued the most half-baked apology, including the infamous line, “There’s no one who wants this thing over more than I do; I’d like my life back.” (The explosion had killed 11 oilrig workers.)
Master the Essentials
Depending on the scope of the problem, you may need a team devoted to making it right. But integrated marketers can start planning for the worst at the most important time: before anything happens.
Expect the unexpected: You can’t anticipate every bad thing that might happen, but start thinking about potential PR nightmares, and develop general talking points, expanding on them with specifics when and if you need them.
Control the narrative: Make sure everyone in your company is telling the same story. You should have a designated spokesperson, and prepare your customer service team on how to handle the tough questions.
Shore up your social media: You are going to be flooded with comments and people wanting answers. Instead of halting comments and switching feeds to private, which makes it look like you’re hiding something, you should have a single person manning the feeds and armed with sincere, informative answers.
Last modified: November 13, 2017