Do You Have a Crisis Communication Plan?

The news has been riddled with PR nightmares lately. Pepsi's tone-deaf attempt to make the Black Lives Matter movement cool was taken down almost immediately. United Airlines just escaped leggings-pocalypse in time for videos of police dragging a bleeding passenger off of one of their flights to surface. Hey, maybe leggings make his butt look nice! And then there's Uber, who's countless PR nightmares could be made into a scrapbook of what not to do for future startups. Thankfully, you can avoid this kind of backlash by establishing a crisis communication plan.

Crisis Communication is a sub-specialty of the public relations profession that is designed to protect and defend an individual, company, or organization facing a public challenge to its reputation.
— Wikipedia

Stated simply a crisis communication plan will save your ass when someone makes a big boo-boo. A simple crisis communication plan informs the public of what happened and takes ownership for the issue quickly. We have a handy little graphic provided by SHIFT Communications that outlines the three steps to conflict free social standing. 

Every company has the potential to be engulfed in scandal. Really, anybody. I know you feel safe over there with your ethical jewelry line, but what if someone discovered that one of your jewelry sources was affiliated with the diamond trade in the Congo, a country known to produce "blood diamonds," which are sourced by children to finance wars. Yikes! People would be furious to learn that you hadn't provided full disclosure. Time for damage control. 

If you find yourself in the middle of some terrible press, time is of the essence. The longer you wait the angrier your customers will be, and more memes will surface. Remember, a meme is forever, and you don't want to see your logo on a meme about failed child labor laws. When you respond quickly you're more likely to mediate the issue before it blows up, so stay vigilant with your customer service. We all know that one company that never responds to their customers and their future isn't bright. Social media has made it imperative that companies take ownership in a timely matter. 

By far the most important thing you can do in the event of controversy is own up to your companies mistake. Time after time CEOs diminish the way consumers feel with an out of touch statement in defense of their blunder. United's CEO, Oscar Munoz, sent an email to his employees stating that "Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this." This email was inevitably leaked all over the internet, and that was not what people wanted to hear. Take ownership of any wrongdoing and apologize if need be. Don't forget, you'd be nothing without your customers.

Conflict may find your company, but establishing a crisis communication plan can save you a lot of late nights. Always be open and honest with your customers, because it's extremely easy to get caught in a big controvery. Just ask Uber.

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StrategyAshley Evans