Responding to a PR Crisis: A Five Step Brand Recovery Strategy

By: KCD PR Editorial Staff

Every day, the headlines point to the world’s most recent crisis – the global COVID-19 pandemic. When a crisis like this occurs, there is an immediate need to communicate with customers, employees, and stakeholders. Your business operations are disrupted, and customers are inquiring about the impact it has on them. Similarly, industry regulators have been notified and employees of the company are concerned and want information. Investors are probing for further insight — and of course, reporters are digging for details for potential stories. All of these groups make up your business’s “audiences” and messaging will need to be tailored to them in a crisis.

How can your company respond to an emergency or disaster? The answer is to develop a sound crisis communication plan. A business must be able to respond in a timely, direct and honest manner; and with confidence during a global or market-related emergency. Those aforementioned audiences must be reached with information specific to their requests and needs. After all, the image of the business is at stake here with a potential positive or negative impact of perceptions.

As we’ve seen with the most recent pandemic and global market meltdown, no organization is immune to a crisis. No matter how long it takes for a brand to build credibility or profitability, it can all be undone within seconds of a crisis. Having a communications plan helps soothe widespread fear and concerns from customers and employees, and it can help reduce the negative impact from the press.

Here are five crucial steps that will help you build a reliable crisis management strategy.

  1. Internal communications. Identify your key spokesperson and brief them on what’s happening as well as how your brand is going to move forward. Then move quickly to respond internally with those messages to your employees. The point here is to quickly alleviate any internal fears or concerns in the workforce, and align employees with any external messaging and protocols.
  1. Understand the potential impact. The COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on companies’ brand reputations and stock market shares. As a decision maker, you must understand what the immediate impact and ramifications are on your business. Your corporate communications strategy should include message delivery on social media. You’ll want to determine how your decisions will impact business, revenue and overall brand reputation.
  1. Position yourself. Now that you have a thorough understanding of the impact this crisis can have on your company, you should have a clearer idea of how to position your corporate stance accordingly. Begin drafting your messaging and ensure the executive team and key decision makers’ buy-in. Be prepared for a bit of back and forth (naturally), but rest assured, your research in understanding any potential impact will help ensure alignment during this process. Alignment, especially from a PR perspective, is necessary in order to avoid inconsistences within your corporate response that could further damage your reputation or appear dishonest. As aforementioned, all public outreach must be transparent, consistent, and focused on the crisis as it relates to your strategy.
  1. Monitor Conversations. Once you’ve determined the channel of distribution for your message, monitoring your audiences’ response is equally critical. The one question you should ask is, “Is this PR crisis still a crisis?” Know that this type of fire doesn’t diminish overnight; sometimes it can take months before customer inquiries and questions have diminished.
  1. Learn the lessons. Mitigating the negative connotations of your brand is only one aspect of a PR crisis strategy. You’ll need to take a deep-dive and reflect into any events or gaps within your organization that were negatively impacted by the crisis. By considering how certain events affected your organization, you will be better prepared to have an appropriate and timely response should another conflict arise. Additionally, we recommend developing a standard protocol or training guide to better help employees efficiently manage similar emergencies in the future.

The bottom line is – no one is exempt from a crisis. As we’ve learned, even if your business and industry is thriving, global circumstances can send your organization into a tailspin. Preparation is key, as is how and when your organization responds.  

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