By Charlene Sweeney, account director, BIG Partnership

It is every CEO’s nightmare – your organisation is in the news, but not for the reasons you want it to be.

From employee misconduct and industrial action through to cyber-attacks and social media disasters, businesses are facing more threats than ever.

It’s not just a company’s reputation that is damaged in the event of a crisis. Negative media coverage can also have a direct impact on:

•      Share value

•      Revenue

•      Stakeholder trust

•      Staff morale

•      Attracting top talent

In an era of unprecedented connectivity, the days of attempting a cover-up are long gone. Putting your head in the sand is not only ill-advised, it can also be highly counter-productive; ignoring criticism and media enquiries can seriously escalate a crisis.

And despite the famous Blair-era claim, there is no such thing as a good day for bad news.

While each crisis or issue is unique and presents a different set of circumstances, there are a variety of outcomes that can help to mitigate against adverse impact, ranging from presenting a brand’s case to help minimise negative sentiment to taking issues offline and spiking stories before they’ve been published.

In some cases, it is even possible to achieve positive media coverage if a negative report is effectively reframed.

For example, KFC rolled out brilliant ads in newspapers following a chicken shortage in 2018.

The brand maintained a page on their website where customers could check the “chicken status” of their local restaurants. And they kept on top of the news by answering questions via social media almost daily.

The result was an increase in brand sentiment and purchasing consideration for KFC remained steady, despite the obvious challenge of a chicken restaurant running out of its key product.

For every success, however, there are many failures.

In 2016, Samsung acted quickly to implement a large-scale recall of its faulty Galaxy Note 7 devices before it had carried out extensive testing and identified the cause of the issue.

However, Samsung made the decision to issue customers with replacement handsets, assuring them and the wider public that they were safe to use.

When the same issue resurfaced, Samsung had to undertake an embarrassing second recall; reversing the impression that they cared about customers’ safety. It is estimated the blunder cost the brand £4bn. It also suffered a 30% dip in profit after the second recall.

With the best will in the world, it isn’t possible to see around corners and know what lies ahead. But it is possible to prepare and ensure your business puts its best foot forward if a crisis occurs. Having processes in place including determining appropriate responses in advance, identifying the best spokesperson and taking a coordinated approach across all channels can go a long way to protect reputation.

Scenario planning, media training and even live simulations should also be considered as part of your plans.

So make a New Year’s resolution that is worth sticking to, and make crisis communications a priority. It could just save your brand.

To find out more about crisis communications please join us at BIG Partnership’s breakfast event at citizenM, Renfrew Street, Glasgow, at 8-1030am on Thursday 16 January. Tickets are available via Eventbrite or email us at [email protected] to book.

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