Why a crisis plan is vital for business longevity
Good marketers have known this for years. Even if you think a crisis is highly unlikely and your business is transparent, a crisis is likely to occur at some point because in today’s digitally exposed landscape, there are too many factors outside the C-Suite’s control.
The truth is, most businesses are only one bad order, one disgruntled customer/employee and one dubious supplier away from a potentially serious crisis.
On top of this, social media and the internet have made most businesses highly likely to be scrutinised at some point. The flow of information both into and out of an organisation can no longer be adequately controlled. Many businesses are embracing this by making their operations completely transparent and trackable, but many are resisting.
A good crisis plan can be the difference between your operation surviving a crisis, and going out of business.
Why? Because a crisis plan comes down to what everything comes down to in marketing: Customer perception.
A customer who feels a business’ values matches their own values will be loyal longer and spend more. Don’t forget, 62% of consumers say they would boycott a brand that offends them, and 17% of customers who lose faith in a brand will never come back to that brand.
This good news is, 89% of consumers remain loyal to brands who share their values, 94% of consumers say they’d recommend a brand they are emotionally engaged with. Plus, 43% of customers spend more money on brands they are loyal to.
All this means the organisation must plan for the worst so it can ride the storm. A crisis plan, when planned and executed well, can actually improve the perception and loyalty of customers at the end of the issue.
Isentia undertook a crisis study in its 2018 Leadership Index into four of the biggest crises of the time, including Rugby Australia, Boeing, Facebook’s data breach, and NZ’s terrorist attack.
The analysis found both Boeing and Facebook got it wrong, and the two more local examples got it right.
Why? Because trust, action, communication and authenticity were present for two, and absent for the others.
iSentia reported this lack of communication contribution severely impacted Boeing’s reputation and continues to shape the narrative with an estimated global impact to airline industry is calculated at $4.1 billion in lost revenue so far
A good crisis plan covers all possible contingencies with plans, statements and actions, no matter how spurious or unlikely a crisis may be perceived to be.
Generally, a crisis plan must cover three main aspects of every possible crisis that may occur - from employee leaks to supply chain issues. These three aspects are: Leadership, Immediacy, and Action.
Leaders show up
In times of crisis, your customers want to see the leader of the business, the head honcho, front and centre. They don’t want to see your marketing people or your assistants. Now is the time leaders earn their salaries. The top executive of the business must be the one being seen to be guiding the business through the crisis and taking responsibility for the issue, even if it is not their doing.
When a crisis occurs, the response from the business must be immediate. Two days later is too late, not just because a two-day delay is seen as uncaring for consumers, it is also two days in which the void of information has been filled with speculation, and downright inaccuracies. Don’t give the media or social media commentators the opportunity to fill a void with disinformation.
Likewise, action must be immediate, which is where a good crisis plan comes into its own. It will include pre-prepared and approved statements for release and a list of action points to redress the issue, immediately, not days later. ‘Prepared’ means being ready to jump on an issue before it becomes a crisis.
Among all this, it is important that responsibility must be taken by the business over the issue. Deflection and ducking simply don’t work in a crisis, nor does ‘waiting it out’. To engender trust with consumers, authenticity and trust must be communicated at every level, as well as being actioned.
Vanessa Mitchell is the Director of Content and Communications at AZK Media