Brand chaos and crisis management

2021-10-12 by Ronn Torossian

A brand can be confusing, complicated, or plain chaotic about its tone of voice or messaging. It then becomes necessary to bring its range of offerings into focus and gain control over how the brand is perceived by consumers. Managing perception helps customers make sense of a multifaceted organization. It also optimizes marketing efficiency and performance. As customers become progressively more restless and demand more from brands, Public Relations should help reinvent brands and the way they engage customers across various touch points. With brands being vulnerable to a diverse range of unexpected threats, any crisis can have a potentially devastating effect on customer acquisition, loyalty, and revenue. Since by nature a crisis is unpredictable, a crisis communication strategy is necessary to prevent it from escalating. Essential components of such a strategy have been enumerated below. 

1) Planning – The aim of planning is to keep a company alive in order to preserve its reputation, save jobs, and maintain the company’s capacity to operate. There might be a world of difference in the types of crises a company faces, but it is likely that the communication response will follow broadly similar lines whatever the crisis.  

The planning process outlines the procedures that will produce effective communication during the crisis, and clearly identifies all areas of responsibility. For instance, it would be wise to choose a good communicator as a brand’s spokesperson during a crisis. If the person chosen is a  good communicator, they can make the company appear more human and the mistakes appear more controllable. 

2) The communication process – The communication process will consist of a clearly mapped program which details   the actions that need to be taken and when, and a series of post – event milestones will be listed stating what action should be taken and at what time. The plan will be different according to the specific nature of each industry. For instance, if there have been casualties the priority will be to communicate with the immediate family and also to start a telephone hotline to allow relatives to find out about the latest news. Even if there are perfectly rational reasons for delays in doing this, it will not reflect well on the company. Any strategy should be proactive and should aim to put the company in control of events rather than reacting to them.  

For instance, during the London bombings of 2005, the Transport for London (TfL) press office, which was at the centre of the response to the world’s media, won the Crisis Communications category in the CIPR Excellence Awards for the way it dealt with the situation. When they heard of the bombings, the TfLpress office implemented a well-rehearsed crisis communication plan. Within 20 minutes of first hearing about the disaster, six TfL press officers arrived in pairs at three Tube stations impacted by the bombs to manage the media on site. Before 11 am , the press office had responded to more than 200 interview requests from the world’s media and in just one day the press team had received 2000 telephone calls. 

3) Post-crisis evaluation – The crisis PR strategy should also include a truthful and critical analysis of what happened during the crisis. It should evaluate how the communications team responded during the crisis, what was effective and what wasn’t, and any other lessons that can be learned. The aim should be to learn from prior experience. 

Ronn Torossian: Insights from a Native New Yorker and CEO of 5WPR

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 250 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities