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Seven Tips to Strengthen Your Brand’s Crisis Response Strategy

The start of this decade has tested the adaptability of marketing strategies for brands everywhere. Between a global pandemic that caused a large portion of the population to adjust to remote workspaces, a racial reckoning in the wake of George Floyd’s death that sparked worldwide movements for social justice and swift shifts in important societal conversations amplified by social media, brands have been left in a lurch to organize quick, strategic responses to multiple crises at once.

To stabilize business operations and respond effectively to the shockwaves of disruption, many brands had to pivot in the moment. In some instances, responses or lack thereof put various brands’ reputations on the line – and subjected them to the scrutiny of the polarized world.

With these situations in mind, reviewing a crisis management plan or creating one becomes an important consideration for 2022. A crisis will happen, and it is possible to prepare for them. Not to mention the fact that you’re most likely to assemble the best plan for worst-case scenarios when heads are cool and waters are calm (i.e., not during a crisis).

Whether you’re looking to create a new crisis communications plan or update an existing one, here are the top seven things to consider when preparing your brand.

  1. Identify the key scenarios that pose the greatest risk to your company or brand and use them as a starting point for developing systems and communications tools you’ll need to have at the onset of the crisis. Be sure to include input from team members in different roles across your organization so you have important perspectives across the ins and outs of your business.
  2. Next, conduct a crisis preparedness audit that assists leaders and legal counsel in assessing potential damaging threats and the company’s ability to manage them.
  3. Based on learnings from the audit and team discussions, create a tool kit of all critical communications and process materials you’ll need to create as it pertains to all internal and external-facing efforts. Include processes and documents that would allow your team to move quickly in the moment – i.e., who needs to know what when; who is the designated spokesperson and what their key messages are; what FAQs and templates are needed; and when to send out timely emails, calls, press releases and website communications. Also, take time to preassign roles for specific tasks. Doing so will help ensure your team is aligned and adhering to the same playbook amid the weight of the crisis.
  4. Just as you rehearsed fire drills and tornado drills as a student, the best way to know what to do is to practice it. Create a schedule for running crisis simulations to help your team stay sharp and topical when navigating different types of crises.
  5. Invite an expert or company spokesperson to provide training on topics that can provide a baseline guidance for your team around do’s and don’ts that align with your brand. This might include discussions around company social media policies, how to handle and redirect media requests, and how to pivot the whole team simultaneously and efficiently.
  6. Monitor social media for topics that might influence the next crisis. Political, technological, and societal norms are conversations that can serve as key indicators of changes to the status quo. Keeping an eye out for big shifts in these conversations will help you remain aware of hot topics and looming land mines.
  7. Invest in understanding your target audience with marketing science, a data collection method centered around looking for patterns in the market and in consumer behaviors. Trust is much harder to restore than to maintain, so having the data in hand will help you create a stronger crisis communications plan and help you navigate difficult decisions in a way that is most sensitive to what matters most to your target.

Interested in learning how to craft a full crisis management plan? Email Dana at darnold@hiebing.com to set up a call.