From natural catastrophes to PR disasters, there are many things that a business should be prepared for. In the face of adversity and uncertainty, a company’s brand becomes its anchor, guiding both customers and employees through challenging times. Crises can take various forms, but each poses potential risks to a brand’s reputation – and in today’s world, your brand is everything. When you sell a brand, you sell an experience, not just the product. So, if any aspect of the experience is lacking, it is likely to result in a tarnished reputation.
In this blog post, we will explore corporate branding strategies and best practices that can help you ensure brand resilience during crises that can help your company emerge more potent and trusted than ever.
What is a crisis?
Let’s begin with an example. Often, when we hear the word ‘crisis’, we think of natural disasters or something like a global pandemic that upends reality as we know it. But to be honest, we’re all very familiar with the effects and consequences of COVID-19, and at this point, it’s a little repetitive. Let’s talk about a PR crisis here:
In 2018, Pepsi released an advertisement short film that was controversial, to say the least. Starring Kendall Jenner, the takeaway message was that Pepsi could solve every social issue – now, obviously, that was not the intent. The intention was to show people coming together, but the backlash was so intense that the campaign had to be pulled entirely, and Pepsi issued a formal apology. Though Pepsi was able to recover from it thanks to its loyal customers, the same can’t be said of the model, who is still ridiculed. The key factor here ends up being the brand: how familiar people are with it, its products, and the amount of trust they have put in them.
There’s a reason why people buy brands, and your strategies and plans must account for this fact.
Understanding the Impact
In times of crisis, the impact on a brand’s reputation can be severe because customers’ perceptions and sentiments about the brand undergo many shifts. The problem may be resolved, but customers might remember how a brand handled the situation for a long time, which would influence their future purchasing decisions and loyalty.
It’s important to keep in mind that consumers and stakeholders alike are experiencing heightened sensitivity, and therefore their reactions may be disproportionate to the actual issue — it’s on the business to provide reassurance and to navigate through the turmoil. Also, crises can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of a brand, and provide another opportunity to be compared to its competitors. A well-managed response can demonstrate your commitment to customers and differentiate the brand positively.
So now we have an idea of the impact that one bump in the road can cause – let’s get into how you can deal with it.
The Role of Preparedness
The most important precaution is to formulate a comprehensive crisis communication plan. By anticipating any potential problems, you can ensure swift and effective responses – and a structured and proactive strategy that outlines how a company will manage communication and messaging during times of crisis can quite literally be a lifeline. This involves predicting potential crisis scenarios, yes, but also identifying key stakeholders and determining the most appropriate channels and methods for communication.
With a contingency plan, the organization can avoid chaotic responses that may come across as all over the place, leading to confusion and misinformation. On the other hand, a coordinated approach enables the company to provide accurate information to stakeholders and the public. Ideally, a crisis communication plan should consider various communication channels like traditional media, social media, websites, and direct communication with stakeholders.
In addition to external communication, preparedness also involves internal communication with employees. Keeping employees informed and engaged during a crisis can help maintain a sense of unity and purpose within the organization, resulting in a cohesive response to the challenges at hand.
Be Honest and Timely
Look, no one likes to admit they’re wrong, or made a mistake, or don’t have an answer. So, of course, there may be an instinct to downplay the severity of a situation or withhold certain information. But when there’s a crisis, honesty is crucial in building and retaining trust with your customers and stakeholders. Acknowledging the issue openly and transparently demonstrates the brand’s integrity and commitment to addressing the challenges at hand.
Especially in cases where a crisis has resulted from a mistake or an internal issue, acknowledging your mistakes and taking responsibility for them is vital. Denying or attempting to hide the truth can exacerbate the crisis and damage the brand’s reputation further whenever the truth comes out. Also, admitting fault and outlining steps for rectification shows humility and a commitment to improvement!
And remember, consistency is the key. The brand’s actions and responses to the crisis should align with the messages communicated, reinforcing its credibility and reinstating trust among its audience.
Tailor Your Advertising Strategy
When the situation is different, the usual marketing and advertising messages may come across as insensitive to customers – so you should probably adapt your messaging to acknowledge the current reality and address the challenges at hand. Tailoring messaging to resonate with the circumstances demonstrates that the brand is in touch with reality, and considers the evolving needs and emotions of its audience.
Empathetic campaigns and interactions show customers that the brand acknowledges their challenges and is there to support them, creating a sense of trust and building a positive brand perception even during difficult times.
Keep Employees in the Loop
Employees are the frontline representatives of the brand, and their actions and communications can significantly influence how the public perceives the brand during a crisis. As they interact with customers, stakeholders, and the community, employees have a unique opportunity to embody the brand’s values and demonstrate its commitment to handling the crisis responsibly.
In times of crisis, employees may face questions and concerns from customers and stakeholders. By providing employees with accurate and up-to-date information, you can ensure consistent messaging and help employees respond knowledgeably and confidently. Clear communication within the organization in turn empowers employees to be effective brand advocates during challenging times.
Collaborate for Positive Impact
By aligning the brand with social causes, a company showcases its commitment to corporate responsibility and contributing to the betterment of society. This engagement goes beyond profit-driven motives, emphasizing the brand’s dedication to making a positive impact.
And if you’re looking for more tangible gains, here’s a fun tidbit: in competitive markets, aligning with social causes can differentiate a brand from its competitors! Customers are socially aware and given the opportunity, may choose a brand that actively contributes to causes they support, even if the product or service offerings are similar. Also, nonprofits and social organizations often have a dedicated and passionate following – collaborating with such entities enables the brand to tap into its social influence, gaining access to new audiences and potential customers.
In conclusion, the role of branding in ensuring the survival of businesses during crises cannot be overstated. Whatever form crises may take, the potential risks to a brand’s reputation highlight the critical significance of upholding brand resilience. As you focus on strengthening the defenses of your brand, keep in mind that an unforgettable brand identity goes beyond crisis response. The paramount importance of a brand, particularly a resilient one, cannot be overstated, as it serves as the cornerstone of a company’s success and enduring reputation in the face of adversity.