What to Do During a Brand Crisis

Crisis Management Plan

When a brand crisis looms, it can feel like an unanticipated wave, ready to engulf years of painstakingly built reputation. In today’s hyper-linked world, a single misstep can echo across social media, news channels, and online forums, potentially leaving behind a marred brand image and eroding customer trust.

Fortunately, there’s no need to worry. Even the stormiest seas can be traversed with a skilled crew and a well-defined action plan.

Strength in unity

When it comes to brand crisis management, nothing beats a well-prepared team. Just like a Formula One pit crew, each with their individual roles but working seamlessly together, a crisis response team should consist of members from various departments, each bringing their unique expertise to the table.

Their unified efforts are pivotal in getting things back on track swiftly. The PR team will be the voice of the brand during a brand crisis. They’ll craft communication strategies, press releases, and manage media liaisons. The legal team will ensure every step taken is within legal bounds, protecting the brand from potential legal complications.

They’ll counsel on possible legal fallouts of the brand crisis and guide communication to minimize legal risk. The marketing team will work hand-in-hand with PR to devise a crisis management plan. They’ll make sure all communication keeps brand messaging consistent during the crisis, and may also play a part in reputation management strategies.

The customer service team will be the frontline force in engaging with upset customers. They must be armed with clear communication guidelines and empowered to address customer concerns promptly and empathetically.

Apart from these core departments, depending on the type of brand crisis, consider bringing in representatives from other pertinent areas. Human Resources can play a vital role if the issue involves employee conduct, and Operations might be called upon if the crisis is related to product safety.

A standout team leader is not just someone with a knack for decisions, excellent communication, and grace under fire. This person is also the maestro, bringing harmony to the team’s efforts and making sure everyone is singing the same tune.

Crisis preparedness

Predicting every crisis is impossible, but proactive planning can significantly lessen the chaos when disaster strikes. The first step is to create a crisis management plan

This plan is the roadmap, defining roles, duties, communication protocols, and potential actions for various crisis scenarios. It should be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect current circumstances.

Brainstorm scenarios that could potentially tarnish the company’s brand reputation. This could involve product safety concerns, data breaches, ethical issues, and negative publicity around the brand or its leadership.

Identify the platforms the company will use to communicate with stakeholders during a crisis. These could include social media, press releases, email marketing, or even a dedicated crisis communication website.

Prepare the key spokespersons, including the CEO and other executives, for media interactions. This training helps them anticipate tricky questions, deliver clear and concise responses, and maintain a calm and confident demeanor. 

Keep an eye on online conversations and brand mentions to identify potential issues early on. Social listening tools can come in handy, allowing companies to measure public perception and respond swiftly if negative sentiment arises.

Ronn Torossian founded 5WPR, a leading crisis PR agency

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and Chairman of 5WPR, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 25 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 275 professionals. 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 is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.

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