Online reputation management strategies for business can be proactive rather than reactionary. Many companies spend time and money on ensuring their target demographic views them in the way they wish to be perceived online, without any specific incident triggering that marketing behaviour.
Negative content, no matter how mild, can have a detrimental effect on a business when it is displayed prominently on the first page of the search results. A good ORM strategy helps to maintain a positive perception of the company in the public arena. What many businesses are unprepared for, however, is a genuine crisis.
Why Have a Crisis Strategy?
Business owners either believe there is no point in planning for the unexpected, or they bury their heads in the sand under the assumption that bad things will only happen to other people or businesses. In the modern, connected world, this lack of crisis management strategy can be deadly.
When things can go viral in an instant and news flows around the world in a matter of seconds, any minor mishap can become a crisis in moments. While no crisis can be so expected that detailed and specific plans can be prepared, simply knowing how to communicate in the face of a crisis can make the difference between riding the wave or going under.
Crisis Communications Planning
A crisis communications plan should consider the possibilities for what could go wrong, detail who is responsible for what and who is in charge, outline a basic strategy for dealing with a crisis, and ensure that the appropriate spokespeople are trained and prepared to respond. No business will ever be able to predict every possible crisis scenario but taking the time to consider as many possibilities as possible ensures that key business leaders are more aware of what could go wrong.
A crisis is – by definition – something that requires an immediate response, so businesses that waste time post-crisis discussing who is in charge are the ones that are likely to be sucked under. Strategies will vary depending on the business type, brand message and the specific crisis, but the keywords for external communication are immediacy and transparency.
Within the unique constraints of each company, a crisis communications strategy should address the best ways to quickly and openly resolve the underlying issue. Finally, spokespeople should be well trained and ready to respond at the appropriate time, even in high-pressure situations.
Communicating the Right Messages
The message being communicated is the foundation of any crisis response in business, so to communicate effectively, the key people within the business need to know what that message is. There may be certain constraints regarding how much information can be publicly shared, but within these constraints it is almost always best to be as upfront and honest as possible to generate trust and avoid losing respect.
The spokesperson needs to know as many of the facts about the issues provoking the crisis as possible and be prepared to share succinctly with the customer base and the wider public exactly what went wrong and why. A heartfelt expression of concern for the impact on anyone affected, be they individual customers, the public or even employees, followed by a sincere apology can go a long way towards regaining public sympathy.
The company then needs to publicly commit to a plan of action that will investigate the underlying issues, address them, and ensure whatever caused the crisis in the first place cannot happen again.
Addressing the Key Audiences
The same technology that can cause a crisis by spreading information like wildfire can also be used to address the key audiences when dealing with the fallout. The internet and other technologies give companies the opportunity like never before to communicate directly with their key audiences without having to go through the media.
Knowing who these key audiences are in advance is therefore an advantage in a crisis communications strategy. The ability to quickly update websites and social media pages to accurately reflect the company’s crisis management strategy is part of the key to success. However, the media cannot be ignored as a key audience completely.
Responding to the media efficiently, ideally with a clearly-worded and unambiguous written statement delivered by a trained spokesperson, can help to hold back the tide. Monitoring news coverage, and particularly the comments online, is also vital post-crisis to maintain control, understand public feeling and react appropriately.
A specialist reputation management company can provide expert help dealing with damage caused by crisis situations, prior poor handling of bad publicity, or any other reputation damage happening now or in the future. If you’re currently facing a crisis, please don’t hesitate to contact ReputationDefender’s team of experts by calling +44 800 131 0700, or emailing [email protected] for confidential guidance on how we can help your business.