Anand Prakash, former journalist and now strategic communications expert with India’s biggest PR Agency, Adfactors PR, has more than 15 years’ experience in public relations, public affairs, advocacy, reputation management, and marketing communications.
Much like a story, a crisis unfolds over an arc of time with a beginning, middle, and end. While not all parts of a crisis can be predicted or averted through a playbook, it is significant to be resilient during these times, or else the ‘ending’ can be catastrophic.
When an organization is experiencing layoffs, a lawsuit, a social media scandal, a data theft, or any other kind of corporate crisis, it can often feel a little like swimming in the ocean. It gets hard to keep track of where exactly you’re going, and sometimes, it’s challenging to just stay afloat.
In such a scenario, the beginning, middle, and end of your story can get obscure. Hence, it’s possible one will not find all the right answers in your tactical playbook. This is exactly where your resilience and mentality come in with a plot-twist.
More often than not, the cerebral aspects of leading through a crisis can take a back seat, with the visceral aspects reigning supreme. And when that happens, one should be familiar with a few key facets of crisis management, or rather a crisis leadership.
Never be rash, but remain brave
According to research, anxiety makes people more risk-averse in a crisis. As a result of this situational behavior, they are less likely to seek out distinct perspectives and tend to fall back on actions that have been successful in the past, instead of taking a fresh route.
This is what researchers call threat rigidity. Creating these roadblocks (consciously or unconsciously) can often limit your creativity and authenticity in reacting to a given crisis. These mental roadblocks exist as an existential threat to inventiveness and innovation in one’s overall problem-solving approach.
This is so because it is easy to fall victim to retrenchment in times of thumping instability, but what separates leaders in a crisis, is their ability to seize the crisis as an opportunity and unlock its capacity anew.
This, however, does not mean taking impulsive or rash decisions when encountered with uncertainty, but instead taking a holistic thought approach, further eliminating ‘thought-rigidity’.
Control your story in the age of ‘virality’
In the age of virality, wherein social media exists as a double-edged sword, it is practically impossible to have complete control of your own story, and attempts to do so via traditional methods can prove counter-productive.
So, one needs to have a social media strategy in place, before utilizing their survival instincts. Just as the Wall Street tycoon, Warren Buffet rightly said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
It is significant to share your brand’s message before you let others interpret your story because it’s yours and only yours to tell. If you wait too long, someone else — media, consumers, your competition, might change your narrative into an undesirable one: Anand Prakash
Let me elucidate this through an example – the infamous crisis of United Airlines, wherein a video of law enforcement officers dragging a passenger forcibly off one of its planes took over social media – it was one such case of virality, with the airline’s arrogant response being a wrong first-reaction.
Therefore, Warren Buffet’s wise words are all the more pertinent in today’s social media age, as information on social media channels – travels faster than the speed of light. In such a scenario, one needs to be prepared to roll out communications as quickly as possible. Not to forget the holy grail of crisis management – the first 48 hours are paramount.
It is significant to share your brand’s message before you let others interpret your story because it’s yours and only yours to tell. If you wait too long, someone else — media, consumers, your competition, might change your narrative into an undesirable one.
Be consistent & stay true to your brand
Lastly, there are two basic tenets of a strong brand reputation – consistency and authenticity. Think of a crisis as an opportunity to go beyond just ROI, and bolster your reputation to a greater extent. Your brand is more than just an identity or logo. It is your company’s personality and what you communicate to your stakeholders and customers that will directly impact its reputation.
Brand loyalty and respect is earned by staying consistent and remaining true to that personality, especially during unprecedented times: Anand Prakash
Brand loyalty and respect is earned by staying consistent and remaining true to that personality, especially during unprecedented times. The market and customers already know your brand in and out – for the ideas, values, and beliefs it stands for. If your brand tries to be ‘something else’ or ‘something more during a crisis, your stakeholders will see right through it.
So, stay true to your core and be consistent in your communication. Because one bad blip can ruin a lifetime of good messaging.