PR Crisis Management InPRactice

One Brand’s Crisis Is Another Brand’s Opportunity

author: Scott Covelli

Written by: Scott Covelli

Public Relations Director


  • Best Practices
  • PR

InPRocess is a bi-monthly PR blog series. Do you need guidance with a PR challenge you’re facing? Connect with our PR Director Scott to learn more about all of EPIC’s PR services, including media + community relations, crisis management, and influencer marketing.

Tips To Help You Get Ready To Respond

Each time a brand’s reputation goes into a tailspin on the news and in social media, it’s inevitable that some of the public responds with, “I didn’t see that coming.” It’s true; brand crises are fickle, and it’s impossible to prepare for every possible scenario. And yet preparation is crucial when it comes to response time, tone, and mitigation of damage to the brand. It’s like learning the Heimlich Maneuver. Hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but if the situation arises, that preparation might save the day. So let’s look at some high-level ways to get your company’s crisis planning efforts off the ground.

Bring The Team Together

When assembling your “crisis team,” it goes beyond company executives. Yes, the people at the top of your business need to help develop the plan, and they’ll likely be people who know the most about the industry and the threats. However, you should also get creative in filling the team out. Consider someone from your customer service or social media team. They often have the most interaction with customers or clients on a daily basis, and they can give key insights on the tone of messaging. Also, if you have a long-standing, valued customer that you trust, invite them into your internal crisis team, or at least have them review the plan when it’s complete. They’ll be able to offer unbiased input on how a message will be perceived in the community or among customers.

Brainstorm The Worst

This might feel like a nightmare, but a helpful exercise in getting started with crisis planning is to know what you’re up against. Get a group of knowledgeable team members together, and start brainstorming every type of conceivable crisis scenario imaginable and group them into categories. We’re talking product issues, bad financial news, arrests, acts of God. Don’t self-edit. Get them all down. It’s a morbid exercise, but it will help you frame the possible situations and put together an outline to respond.

Not All Crises Are Created Equal

Just like how we can’t predict the future, we also can’t choreograph a response ahead of time. Your first job when a crisis hits is to get all the facts. Learn as much about what happened, who is affected, and what the looming threats are as quickly as possible. Next, identify what kind of crisis it is. They usually fall into one of three categories:

Self-Made Crisis: This is when someone connected to your company brought the crisis on the brand. This includes employee misconduct, a product defect, or a tone-deaf social media post.

Out-of-Nowhere Crisis: This is a crisis that specifically affects your brand, but it comes from the outside. For example, if a group of people commit a crime while using your product, it’s most likely not your fault, but the image of your brand may become tied to the news story. You’ll need to be prepared for a response. Think it can’t happen to your brand? Think again.

“We’re in This Together” Crisis: This is a crisis that affects everyone in the industry or the community. The COVID-19 pandemic is a good example of this. Everyone needs to respond one way or another, but how you respond says a lot about your brand’s values.

Three Questions To Answer

When it’s time to respond to the media, your employees, or those affected by the crisis, you’ll have questions to answer. As a guiding principle, the most comprehensive and effective responses tend to answer these three questions:

1. What do you stand for?

2. What are you doing right now to fix the situation?

3. What are you going to change to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

By sharing your values, you communicate what’s important to you, which is what drives your desire to remedy the situation. The initial “fix” is critical in showing how seriously you’re taking the problem. Action is everything. And lastly, looking ahead, you need to show that you’ve learned from the experience and that you’re going to be better because of it.

Preparing for a crisis is like practicing for the big game. You may not always know what play the other team is going to call, but if you’re organized, you can be quick to react effectively. That alone can turn a crisis into an opportunity to show your values while the world watches.

There’s much more to planning for a crisis, and EPIC Creative is here to help.

Reach out to us to learn more about how we can develop a full PR crisis management plan for your business!

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