At one point or another, it’s likely all businesses will face some sort of disaster, be it large or small. But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom – as long as there’s a crisis communications strategy in place, organisations can be ready to ride the storm, whatever that may be.
However, if companies don’t follow certain rules and prepare, then any crisis may be a recipe for disaster. Ryanair, for example, is the latest brand we love to hate. It’s fair to say the airline may not have dealt with its flight cancellation debacle in the appropriate way. The airline’s boss, Michael O’Leary, recently admitted the airline messed up in its scheduling of staff holidays, forcing it to cancel two per cent of its flights through to the end of October, impacting up to 400,000 passengers.
It was quite clear that this wasn’t a well-handled media story – O’Leary failed to appear in front of the media for at least a few days, which is one of the most important rules when it comes to handling a crisis. Business leaders must take action and be responsible, and avoid trying to cover up the crisis – this will only worsen the damage. Instead, they must take control of the situation by owning up, reacting immediately and responding to feedback. Getting in front of the media is key, whether that be through a press release or posts on social media, or a good old-fashioned press conference. Customers are more willing to forgive the brand if they hold their hands up to their mistake.
It’s also vital that brands tell their customers the bad news all in one go, rather than ‘warn’ them about the news they are going to find out. Ryanair made the mistake of telling their customers that thousands of flights were to be cancelled, but didn’t tell them exactly when. It’s vital that businesses are in a position to tell their customers the full story straight away, and how they are going to handle it.
The Ryanair scenario was bad as it affected such a large number of customers. In the B2B space, however, in might not be vocal consumers affected, but it’s still just important to make those businesses’ customers aware of what is going on as they still have the power to kick up a fuss and ultimately affect your reputation and bottom line.
The worst thing a brand can do is completely ignore the fact that a firestorm may well light on social media following the disaster, especially the smaller businesses that aren’t as active on Twitter as others. Just because they may not be active on social does not mean their customers won’t kick up a fuss here — this applies especially to the B2B space. Therefore, they should continue to monitor it and plan a response, if need be.
When it’s all over, businesses can then take the time to discuss what learnings have come from handling this crisis, and think about how they are going to handle any ongoing negative publicity. Post-crisis communications strategies should present a careful tone – positive but also proving to customers they’re listening.
If businesses make sure they follow the above rules and make sure they’re prepared, they’ll avoid the risk of not only financial loss, but significant brand damage and also run the risk of alienating business partners.