A time of crisis, like the one we’re facing today, is the biggest danger of damaging reputation. By definition, a crisis in PR is an unplanned and unwanted negative process happening over a certain time span, with only limited chances of controlling it.
When a company faces a crisis, a new type of communication emerges, a category that experts call crisis communication. As a rule, your customers want to get answers to three basic questions:
- What’s happening?
- What are you doing about it?
- What are you going to do about it?
“No comment” is not an answer, especially when you’re trying to foster your brand storytelling and take control over the narrative. When you don’t comment, you’re giving media a blank slate where they can write their own version of the crisis you’re in.
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The Main Tasks of Crisis Communication for Brands
To tackle these basic questions, you need to present clear, transparent answers about the situation. These are some of the requirements for successful brand storytelling during a crisis:
- shaping a positive attitude towards the situation
- maintaining a strong reputation by communicating true facts
- continuing operations in line with the market’s expectations
- looking for new opportunities (improving reputation)
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1. Start with a Plan
Every structured brand communication strategy starts with a solid plan. This plan should answer these questions:
- Who will assume which communication role during the crisis?
- What will be the stance when communicating with the public and media?
- Who will speak on behalf of the brand?
- What are the key messages that you want to transfer?
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2. Communicate Clearly and Frequently
It’s wrong to assume that there’s enough information and explanations outside the company so that it’s unnecessary to add more. Besides, you should always clearly state and explain the company policy on travelling, working from home, etc. so that employees always know what to do. It’s important to be open and direct and avoid sending ambiguous messages. The best brand will communicate information clearly both within the company and to the outside world.
Here are some of the services that you can use for crafting clear crisis communication documents:
- Studicus – hire experts who can create crisis communication guides
- BestEssayEducation – essay writing website that can help you create documentation for crisis PR
- Crisis Communications Plan – tailor this template to your own brand
- SupremeDissertations – find help with writing press releases and public communication
- Crisis Communication Guide – use this template to set up your own crisis communication guide
3. Create a Crisis Communications Team
In times of crisis, it’s best to assemble a small, but a multi-disciplinary team of people you trust. You should give them enough manoeuvre space and freedom so they can make strategic decisions on a strict deadline.
“The key role of the crisis communications team is to protect people: employees, users, suppliers, customers, leads, followers… This team needs to be creative in terms of possible solutions for issues that pop up quickly”, says Estelle Liotard, a content marketing specialist and senior writer at TrustMyPaper.
Image source: PreparedEx
4. Recognise New Customer Needs and Respond to Them
Brands that are prepared for every situation are in frequent contact with customers and suppliers. This contact helps them to find out more about the biggest negative impacts of the crisis and possible responses that would mitigate it. For example, brands would, perhaps, adapt their prices and offer portfolio to respond to new customer needs, such as creating stocks or focusing on longer periods at home.
Your brand storytelling should reflect that your approach is changing because of these things. As a company, you should communicate what you’re doing to accommodate the changing needs of your customers.
5. Brands as Part of the Solution
Communications solutions that neglect interests outside of the company will create distrust in the long term and cause reputational damages to the brand. At the same time, supporting customers, partners, the health care system or other social systems in times of crisis can result in deepening of trust towards the company.
Most brands use these help moves for the recovery of society and the economy as part of their brand storytelling. For example, they will offer products or services (not just financial aid) to people afflicted by the crisis. Not only that, but they will be very vocal about it because it speaks about the altruism and social responsibility of the brand and its employees.
Brands should focus on the overlaps of burning social needs and specific values of their employees and organizations.
Conclusion: Preparing Your Brand and Business for the New Normal
We can expect that the COVID-19 pandemic crisis will bring some serious changes to the way we do business and the way we live as a society. So far, it’s obvious that this crisis will benefit some sectors and areas such as online shopping and online education. At the same time, all companies will have to look at the possible new ways of organising their supply chains and take a step back from their dependency on small suppliers, distributors, logistics centres and factories.
After we get through the most dangerous part of the crisis, companies and brands should have a long, hard look at all the changes the situation has brought and what they have learned from it. The situation will surely reflect on their plans for the future, which will also have an impact on their brand storytelling.
Even while the crisis is still ongoing, we should document all the measures taken along with their consequences. Later, we can draw lessons from this period and apply all of these events as a new part of our brands’ stories.