Crises are detrimental because they can have extremely negative consequences for a business’s reputation. The immediate results can be the erosion of trust from both potential clients and partners. Often, the situation has either spiraled entirely out of control or is at risk of doing so at any moment.
Most international companies have specific guidelines for responding to particular crisis situations. Generally, in crisis situations, they follow the main principle of “taking actions that will cause the least damage.” We will share with you the purpose of crisis communications in business conflicts.
Why are crisis communications needed in business conflicts?
Problems arising in business are exacerbated by the fact that, in the era of digital technology, it only takes a couple of hours for them to escalate into a loud scandal. Such scandals not only undermine the reputation of those involved in the conflict but also jeopardize their ability to conduct business in the future.
It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to destroy it. Warren Buffett’s accurate phrase, spoken many years ago, is more relevant today than ever.
An appropriate example is the YARO brand, which produces healthy food products. Its owner posted a humorous photo online depicting the central square of the capital city of an aggressor country. This action provoked a wave of indignation. Even the apologies, which were belated, did not remedy the situation. In the end, many well-known retail networks refused to sell YARO products.
Features of crisis communications
What to do during the first days of a crisis and how to act to prevent potential negative consequences:
- Always be prepared
Most global companies can boast pre-prepared instructions that outline the order of actions in case of unforeseen crisis situations. These instructions are called crisis roadmaps.
These guidelines describe hundreds of possible problematic situations and options for public communication regarding each of them. Moreover, these manuals should be regularly updated to fully correspond to new realities. Ideally, they should be updated every six months. Additionally, many companies have recommendations for employees on how exactly they should communicate on social networks, what topics to raise, and how to respond to potential provocations. The primary goal of this is to prevent the business from being at the center of a scandal.
Nevertheless, even such detailed and carefully prescribed instructions cannot foresee absolutely everything. Therefore, even with these guidelines in place, businesses sometimes find themselves involved in scandals.
Let’s recall the Swedish company engaged in clothing retail that used a boy with a dark skin tone in its advertising campaign. The boy wore a sweatshirt with the inscription “Coolest monkey in the jungle.” Accusations of racism did not take long to surface, and the indignation from opinion leaders only fueled the situation.
And even though the changes were made on time, all the relevant photos were removed, and the responsible individuals were punished, the company’s shares still fell by a third within a year, and some of the brand’s stores were even closed in South Africa. Of course, time passed, and the scandal was forgotten. Today, the brand continues to grow and explore new promising markets.
How to properly resolve emerging crises? It is essential to create a cross-functional team in advance, consisting of PR specialists and experts who will work on the incident. If the team members are familiar with their action algorithm and act quickly and efficiently, even unpleasant situations will not gain publicity.
- Preparing a position paper
A crisis always implies that specific and clear communications must take place. It is important to understand why something happened and gather as much information as possible about the incident. All of this will then be used to prepare statements. These are short messages that describe the company’s official position.
Characteristics of these statements:
Only provide verified information, preferably pre-approved by lawyers.
Messages should explain what happened and answer the question of what the company plans to do about it in the future.
It is important to talk about the importance of life, health, human rights, and the environment.
Use factual language, avoid emotions, and sarcasm.
If the company accepts responsibility, it must apologize and inform about the measures it will take to change the situation.
The message can be small and consist of just a few paragraphs. If necessary, you can always publish updates and add new points. Statements are published on the company’s official public platforms.
- Round-the-clock monitoring and working with media services
First, you need to identify the source where the problematic information first appeared. If you cannot do this independently, use the services of one of the monitoring agencies.
If the mass media is the source, contact them and ask to update the information with an addition about the position your company holds regarding the incident. Mention that there should be a balance between assertions and opinions. If someone’s post on social media is the source, be sure to comment on it as an official representative of your company.
If television channels approach you, before giving comments, ask the journalists for a list of questions and allocate time to prepare your answers. Keep in mind that not everything you say will be broadcasted. Most likely, it will be cut into pieces, and not in the best way.
Here are some more recommendations on how to save face during a scandal:
Don’t remain silent. There are situations when there is simply nothing to say. But even in such cases, you should communicate and say that you are actively working to clarify the circumstances and resolve the arising issues.
Don’t waste time. Every minute is crucial in a crisis situation. Work actively and act promptly. You can rest later.
Be honest with people. If you conceal or distort information, it will definitely not work in your favor.
Don’t be swayed by emotions. Remain calm and composed under any circumstances.
Stick to the facts. If you are using any information, you must be absolutely sure of its truthfulness. Otherwise, you risk not only your reputation but also your relationship with the law.
Remember that any conflict can be taken to the legal realm. So, don’t forget about the need for a prepared evidence base. Save all correspondence, take necessary screenshots. The date and time must be visible on the screenshots.
Keep your team informed. All your employees should not only be well informed about what is happening but also know the official company position.
Hire experienced experts who will help you deal with the problem.
- Further development of events
Only a very small percentage of crisis situations can be stabilized within the first day. More often, the situation becomes more acute and worsens with each passing hour. This is especially true if the company remains silent or distorts the actual facts.
So remember, the most important thing is to have a calm and competent reaction within the first day of the problem arising. If everything is done correctly, the company’s losses will ultimately be minimal.
During a crisis, building normal communication is difficult. This is mainly because the situation often changes and starts to require new, often either strict or creative crisis management measures. If these measures are not successful, it can lead to a real catastrophe and even the end of the company’s operation. Therefore, turn to experienced specialists for crisis management measures. For example, to the specialists at S&P Agency.