8 Steps to a Crisis-Proof Brand

By Dorothy Crenshaw

The world gasped as video of a United Airlines passenger being violently dragged from his seat by transit police went viral. The airline’s spiraling reputation crisis played out just a week after brand Pepsi was hit with a barrage of social criticism for a splashy ad derided as tone-deaf. Just weeks before, Uber had sustained a series of reputation dings that left it struggling to recover. The car service was beset with charges of sex discrimination in the workplace, misbehavior by founder Travis Kalanick and stealth use of software to evade regulators―among other headaches.

All three are major brands with the resources and know-how to come back from a negative situation. But all would probably agree that it’s better to avoid or mitigate the crisis in the first place—to be crisis-proof. There was a time when a racial slur uttered by someone in line at Walmart happened quietly, or when a CEO arguing with an employee (as Kalanick was recorded doing) was shrugged off. No longer. Today, there’s always a smartphone nearby, the outrage machine is cranking, and the social mob is ready to pile on. In times of crisis, digital media is the great leveler, capable of taking down CEOs, celebrities, and ordinary citizens as well as brands.

While there’s no way to truly “crisis-proof” a corporate brand, there are steps that make it less likely to happen and its impact less severe.

The Eight Steps To Becoming More Crisis-Proof

Know your dealbreakers.

There’s a negative situation and then there’s a business-threatening crisis. A rude employee or even a workplace misbehavior is not necessarily a dealbreaker for most companies. United will weather its latest storm despite everything, in part because we have low expectations of the airline experience. But if you’re a baby food company and there are safety concerns about your product, that’s a dealbreaker. If you’re a beauty brand positioned around diversity and you discriminate in the workplace, that’s a dealbreaker. Those are the nightmare scenarios that should be prioritized when planning a crisis response.

Empower customer-facing employees.

The companies that are particularly vulnerable to a local situation that spirals out of control are those with large and distributed workforces like retailers, restaurants, and airlines. Where feasible, it’s hugely beneficial to grant customer-facing employees the power to resolve or escalate a complaint or unexpected situation by granting a customer a swift benefit, bending a rule, or waiving a penalty. Every corporation must maintain its rules and policies, but good employee judgment is like gold and offering the freedom to exercise it can prevent a simmering situation from exploding all over the internet.

Hope for the best but expect the worst.

To crisis-proof your band, it pays to cycle through one or more of the worst-case scenarios, based on prior experience and institutional knowledge of where the brand and the category are most vulnerable. The baby food reference above comes from a brand I once represented that had weathered a serious crisis in which bits of glass were found Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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