With the good comes the bad, which is why every brand, company, and influencer should have a crisis management plan implemented into their social strategy. A crisis is “whenever there are unexpected events that threaten a brand’s perceived ability to deliver expected benefits, thereby weakening brand equity” (Carter, 2016). At some point, every brand will face a type of crisis that requires a reaction and response. This response is created within a crisis management plan and should have thought and effort behind it. So what is a crisis management plan and how does it help resolve a crisis? To put it plainly: “A crisis management plan makes it easy to detect and prevent a crisis before it happens or before it gets out of hand. That has an impact on both revenue and reputation” (Kruse, 2020). Let’s take a look at how brands can create their own crisis management plan that focuses on the key elements.
Hootsuite created a Practical Guide for Brands to follow when managing a crisis which is applicable to any brand. Below are their 9 tips for businesses and brands:
- Create a social media policy
- Secure your accounts
- Use social listening to identify potential issues
- Define what counts as a crisis
- Craft a crisis communication plan
- Pause all scheduled posts
- Engage — but don’t argue
- Communicate internally
- Learn from the experience
Crafting a crisis communication plan (step 5 in the guide created by Hootsuite) is probably one of the most important steps when managing a crisis. This encompasses who responds, the tone used, and the chain of command. Who responds is potentially part of a crisis management team or the CEO of that brand. “An organization should designate a crisis communications team. All communications should be clear, concise and truthful. For the sake of speed, an organization could proactively draw up a template with potential scenarios, designate the appropriate channels for communication and then plug in the necessary information if the actual incident occurs” (Crocetti, 2020). The crisis communication team needs to respond as quickly as possible while also being as empathetic to the situation as they can. Designating a spokesperson from this crisis communication team will help streamline all communication and ensure that the tone is similar across all channels.
Now, let’s look at some brands who have managed a crisis and determine what they did well and maybe what they did not so well.
Uber, a brand we all know very well, is one of the most successful brands to date however, they experienced lots of turmoil in 2017. One after the other, multiple claims against former CEO, Travis Kalanick, were revealed including that he served on the advisory council to President Donald Trump and had sexual harassment claims held against him. Uber also saw a lawsuit around the same time from Google. As a result, the hashtag #DeleteUber was born. “The hashtag really gained momentum, however, when a video surfaced of Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver about a drop in driver pay. Kalanick released a statement on Uber’s website saying, ‘I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.’ But for many Uber customers, the damage was done and the video was viral” (Prater). The company and former CEO could have done better when responding. “A lack of transparency has been Uber’s biggest failing in handling much of the public interest. A heartfelt letter from the CEO promising to be a better leader won’t get the company far unless the public sees steps and actions taken to get there. Uber is a classic example of crisis management gone wrong” (Prater).
Cracker Barrel, another brand most of us know, also experienced some backlash in 2017 after they fired a woman (known as Brad’s Wife in this situation) who had been in a retail position at one of their branches for over 11 years. Her husband Bradley Reid, posted on the company’s website asking why she was fired. “It wasn’t long before The hashtag #JusticeforBradsWife began trending. Someone even started a Change.org petition for answers that garnered over 17,000 signatures. The restaurant’s crisis management was, apparently, not to treat this like a crisis. They kept quiet on the issue, never publicly addressing the movement or Brad’s Wife. Cracker Barrel shows us an example of how silence can sometimes be the best form of crisis communication” (Prater).
Every brand has a different approach to their social strategy as well as their crisis management strategy. No matter the approach, every brand needs to emphasize the planning stages to the crisis management strategy so that when disaster does attack, they don’t have an Uber-like response on their hands.