How to Handle a Brand in Crisis

By Jonathan Bright

Crisis management and communication is, it’s fair to say, a hot topic. As we know, social media and content marketing offer ideal platforms for creating trusting communities and building connections. But when your brand encounters a crisis, maintaining a sense of trust and integrity isn’t quite as easy. Following last week’s blog where my colleague Jenna discussed the ins and outs of how to manage and communicate change, here we see how handling a brand in crisis – an extreme form of change management – preserve your community and emerge back at the top of your industry.

Maintain a sense of trust and integrity

Choose a model

Without a plan in place, crisis management can get complicated quickly. Take the time to decide on your approach to crisis management in advance, and your team members will know exactly how to react when an issue arises. Many brands opt to follow one of the main crisis management methodologies, which help in assessing the root of the problem and determining an appropriate response.

Image Repair Theory

This theory centres on the concept that a brand must protect its image or reputation when a crisis occurs. Image Repair Theory (IRT) suggests five responses a brand can have when attacked:

  • Deny: The brand outright denies the severity of the crisis or attempts to shift blame to another entity.
  • Evade responsibility: The brand paints the crisis as accidental or unavoidable or claims to have performed the crisis-causing action with good intentions.
  • Reduce offence: The brand minimises any negative feelings and reduces any apparent offensiveness.
  • Correct action: The brand attempts to correct the action that caused the crisis.
  • Claim mortification: The brand apologises and asks for forgiveness.

Situational Crisis Communications Theory

This model focuses on assessing how the crisis will affect the brand’s reputation and aims to create understanding of how stakeholders will respond to the situation. Within the Situational Crisis Communications Theory (SCCT), you’ll find three clusters of crises:

  • Victim: When the brand is a victim of the crisis, there’s only a minor threat to reputation at stake.
  • Accident: When the brand has unintentionally caused the crisis, there’s a medium threat to reputation at stake.
  • Intentional: When the brand has purposely taken a risk and caused a crisis, there’s a significant threat to reputation at stake.

Next, the SCCT prompts the crisis managers to select from three potential strategies based on IRT strategies:

  • Deny: Attack the accuser, deny the cause and blame an external entity for the crisis.
  • Diminish: Deny harmful intent or emphasise inability to control the situation, minimising damage.
  • Rebuild: Offer monetary or other forms of compensation to victims along with a complete apology.

Social-Mediated Crisis Communication Model

This model is designed to aid management of crises in a digital environment. The Social-Mediated Crisis Communication Model (SMCC) focuses on identifying distinct groups of constituents and communicating with them as appropriate:

  • Influencers: Important social media figures who create and share crisis-related information.
  • Followers: Constituents who follow the brand on social channels and consume crisis-related content.
  • Inactives: Those who receive crisis-related information secondhand, either by word of mouth or through traditional media.

Integrated Crisis Mapping Model

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Source:: Business2Community

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