Isentia Thought Leaders Series 2019: Managing Crisis And Company Reputation

This year’s Isentia Thought Leaders Series topic of discussion is on Managing Crisis and Company Reputation. Look below to view the highlights from the event!

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Follow-up Q&A by Panelists

1. What is the most important consideration when deciding whether or not to issue a public response during a crisis?

JEFF: Company/Brand reputation is an important consideration. For a CPG company and brand, it is very important when it starts affecting brand equity, brand image, market share and P&L, so you need to be able to preempt it with a response (or not responding if it is going to prolong the conversation in a negative way).

SANJAY: Consider if your response will positively or negatively affect the situation, based on your data-driven judgement of the overall climate, stakeholder sentiment and current perception of your brand. Also assess your overall control of the narrative – do you need to issue a public response to seize back control or to communicate with key stakeholders, not just to inform them but to leverage on their own networks as organic spokespeople/advocates.

Your decision on whether or not to issue a response should not be based on emotion or company SOPs. Judge the situation in its entirety – backed by real-time knowledge & intelligence, social listening, risk analysis as well as on-ground sentiments.

2. Do you think it’s beneficial to draft your crisis press statements with your perceived public image in mind – negative or positive? Or do you do both?

JEFF: In this day and age, brands and companies are held to higher standards with social media and the desire to engage consumers directly. Communication needs to be as authentic as possible, so the perceived public image must always be consistent to what the company/brand stands for, reflecting its corporate/brand values all the time.

SANJAY: Stay true to your brand values and story – be transparent, swift and true to your brand voice. If you’re thinking outright about your perceived public image and how it will be affected, you end up second-guessing how people will react to your messaging. Your statement ends up being crafted with appeasing stakeholders, rather than being honest and upfront about the situation. The public will likely see through that and call you out on it – leading to a crisis within a crisis and raise questions about how you handled communications during a critical period. Companies are defined by how they react to adversity.

Try not to approach a crisis with a defensive mindset. See it as an opportunity to showcase your brand values in an authentic setting. Your stakeholders will remember how you handled yourself during these times, more than a carefully-crafted PR campaign during so-called “peaceful” periods.

3. In a crisis, consumers and media are always looking to the brand for answers. To what extent should brands be reacting to the demands for answers?

JEFF: There are many ways to respond to inquiries, which does not necessitate a press release or announcement. Sometimes directly interacting with the persons involved will be much more effective and powerful then issuing a blanket statement. Sometimes, reassurance that something is being done is what the public is interested in. So it really depends on the situation. There are times that sensitive issues also fall prey to trolls and people who just want to create noise for whatever reason. In these instances, a brand should not try and prolong the conversation.

SANJAY: Again, you should not be reactive and give answers that you think consumers and media want to hear. In the social media age dominated by hashtag activism and SJWs, you’re expected to be transparent, decisive and honest in how you handle the crisis, and share learning points with them so a similar situation will not occur in the future.

Also, be clear on which stakeholders require and/or deserve answers, and find the best platform and product to get the message across to them. There’s no one-size-fits-all “answer” that will solve your crisis.

4. Which platform carries more weight when you make an assessment whether an issue is already a crisis – social media or mainstream?

JEFF: Usually depends on where the issue was raised and how serious it is. In times of crisis, a brand should be responding on both platforms as you want the information disseminated in the fastest and broadest way. Social media is faster as it can happen in real time, so that is usually the first platform. Hopefully, the crises dies down and mainstream media is not necessary anymore.

SANJAY: It would be easy to say social media, given the times we live in. But you have to assess each situation and respond accordingly. In most cases, particularly in Singapore given the mainstream media duopoly, both social media and mainstream are equally critical outreach pillars. This is particularly important if you need to reach the masses, rather than a specific demographic.

As much as they try to deny it, both mediums feed off each other. We’ve seen enough examples of a mainstream article – particularly of company crises – being dissected or turned into a listicle or meme by their online counterparts. So even if you were giving more weight to one platform at the beginning, you’re inevitably having to manage multiple streams of information flow.

You may think speaking to your immediate consumers is sufficient, and a post on your company’s social media channels will diffuse a crisis. But consider the broader implications of the situation – will it be linked to an ongoing social/political issue, will an affected party speak out and deepen the crisis, will the views of an influencer or an op-ed by a mainstream reporter exacerbate matters? Each consideration will also lead to you assessing which platform is best suited for a response.

5. As a brand guardian, what is the biggest challenge for you when managing a crisis situation?

JEFF: The pace of information, virality of the news and unpredictability of the conversation.

SANJAY: Keeping your internal decision makers calm and maintaining perspective, while handling external forces who are inflaming the situation, creating crisis-within-crisis and seemingly taking you further away from resolving the matter. In any crisis, “control” is the most precious commodity, yet it’s also the most difficult to attain. As mentioned earlier, staying true to your brand values and being honest are the best barometers of crisis management.

View and download our event booklet Here.

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