Managing a crisis

Managing a crisis

At some stage a business will encounter a crisis that will need to be dealt with if an organisation is to avoid a loss in reputation and a damage on its brand.  A crisis can be defined as a significant threat to operations that can have negative consequences if not handled properly.
In crisis management, the threat is the potential damage a crisis can inflict on an organisation, its stakeholders, and an industry.
A crisis can create threats to public safety or can cause financial and reputational loss. Crises can create financial loss by disrupting operations, creating a loss of market share or a company getting embroiled in lawsuits related to the crisis.

The way organisations respond to a crisis is very important. Organisations need to protect their brands very seriously because a slight mistake in responding to a crisis can have a negative impact on the reputation of the organisation.

The Public Relations (PR) department of any organisation should have a strategy as to how it will respond to a crisis.
This should be approved at a higher level to ensure that the Chief Executive (CE) knows how to respond whenever there is problem that needs an immediate response. The plan should also be communicated to the employees to ensure that everyone responds with one voice whenever there is a crisis.

Crisis management has become very critical with the digital age we live in where social media is very active.
Any mistake that a company does either by supplying a substandard product or polluting the environment or injuring or killing members of the public can become viral on social media resulting in irreparable damage to the organisation’s brand image if it is not attended to early and effectively.

So it’s very important that the PR strategy considers some of the issues discussed below. The risk of losing business over a crisis can easily be averted if the PR and CE follow some of these rules.

What needs to to be borne in mind is that in the event of a public relations crisis the organisation should not remain silent. It should do something to address the crisis. It should inform its employees, customers and other stakeholders. There is no need to try to cover up a crisis either.
The PR department should come out to the public accepting responsibility for what has happened without having to argue publicly otherwise this will worsen the problem.

Make the apology visible on all media so that the public can see that you are concerned with what has happened.
If your organisation identifies a problem on its product even if the public has not picked it up it’s important that the PR department be proactive and immediately communicates to the public before the public is aware of the issue.

If a company has to recall its defective product, so be it. This will give a boost to the reputation of the company’s image because the public will see that the company is transparent and has accepted responsibility and is prepared to compensate those who have been affected by the defective product or service.

Companies like Toyota have recalled their cars whenever they saw that there was something defective with those cars. This is what it should be because it shows that the company is concerned with the wellbeing of its customers. Don’t wait for the problem to become common knowledge or else it will get viral.

A company should constantly monitor comments on the social media about its product and brand. Sometimes a customer that has been served poorly or treated badly can go onto social media without first informing the problem to the company.
In that case the company should respond appropriately by investigating the problem and informing the public of how the issue is being resolved or has been resolved.
So it’s worthwhile for a company to play on social media so as to know what could be happening that has a negative or positive impact on the organisation.

When responding to a crisis or communicating a problem to the public it’s very important that you empathise with those who are affected.
Be in their shoes rather than showing no concern at all. We are humans and so our response should reflect that as well.
An apology should be followed by action. Your organisation should immediately start implementing something to bring reparations to the issue.
The public should be updated as to what you are doing and how far you have resolved the problem. Constantly monitor the progress of the resolution and keep updating your stakeholders on how you are sorting out the mess.

Whenever a problem occurs it’s important that you investigate immediately before responding and then communicate to the public so that you communicate the right message.

If you are assessing the situation then it’s important that you communicate such to the public rather than not communicating at all.
An organisation should have a culture of treating its employees well. Failure to do that can cause some of these public relations crises because if an employee is not happy he will treat customers badly and if there is a crisis he will not respond in a way that safeguards the brand of the organisation. So have a culture of caring to your employees.

Companies should therefore have a plan as to how they should respond to any crisis. The plan should indicate how the crisis will be communicated to employees, customers, suppliers, the public and other key stakeholders.

A company without a policy or plan on how it deals with a crisis will be forced to have emotional, uncoordinated responses which usually backfire on the company thereby impacting negatively on the company’s image.

Have a response that is well thought-out that will resolve the issues to the customers’ and other stakeholders’ satisfaction. A company should appoint a spokesperson who will communicate to stakeholders to avoid conflicting messages.

Every organisation is recommended to anticipate potential crisis scenarios and establish internal protocols for handling them. There is therefore a need for a well-crafted crisis management policy and strategy.

l Stewart Jakarasi is a business and financial strategist and a lecturer in business strategy (ACCA P3), advanced performance management (P5) and entrepreneurship.

He provides advisory and guidance on leadership, strategy and execution, preparation of business plans and on how to build and sustain high-performing organisations.

For assistance in implementing some of the concepts discussed in these articles please contact him on the following contacts: or WhatsApp +266 62110062.

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