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How to Respond When Adversity Hits Your Brand

Branding, Strategy

While we love for things to run smoothly all the time, that’s just not the way of the world. And in our current culture of connectivity, it’s not uncommon for brands to face a public relations crisis at some point. Product recalls, bad online reviews, negative press coverage—these can all be stressful, make-or-break scenarios for brands. Do you have a plan in place for how to handle a situation like one of these? The good news is that many, many brands weather these storms just fine, but good communication is key—both throughout a recall or other incident and in its aftermath. Let’s talk through a few recommendations for how to help your brand best handle an adverse situation.

Manage the situation with a crisis PR team

Whether this is an internal team that you’ve designated to handle escalated PR situations or a team of professionals you hire from outside, there should be a designated team handling your communication strategy during the acute stages of your crisis. Messaging and the timing of your messages matter during a crisis PR situation and a team with experience in this area is important.

While crisis communications situations are extremely variable, there are some good rules of thumb to keep in mind during the early stages of a crisis PR situation. First, your brand should apologize and then take responsibility. Not apologizing or being seen as trying to ignore the error will only increase the damage and add fuel to the fire. Similarly, you should have a senior person in the organization prepped for interviews with the press. Don’t leave anything up to interpretation with a “no comment” response. Be ready. A crisis is a test of leadership, and to convey strong leadership, you want to make sure the most senior member of the organization, like the president or CEO is publicly addressing the issue and has been trained on how to handle a media interview.

Step back and assess as an organization

After you’ve made it through the storm, how do you return to business as usual? We recommend that before you start any new brand communications post-PR event that you first take some time to reflect and assess the damage done with both your internal team and consumers. When we’ve helped clients in this situation, we typically turn to our Brand Discovery process to help flesh out where the brand sits right now and help teams align their goals moving forward. By letting a third-party company come in and interview your team members, stakeholders and customers, everyone in your organization gets to say their piece and have a voice. Plus, this process sometimes raises discrepancies between departments on what went wrong and where the brand should head moving forward. By getting these discrepancies out in the open, your team can talk through them all and decide on a unified way to proceed.

Invest in your brand and voice

A great way to put the lessons learned from a bad PR moment and your internal discovery is to redefine your brand and its voice. By taking the time to write a new brand voice guide you can ensure your brand’s voice and message align with the new, unified company goals. This is also a great way to readdress issues that might have been dragging you down.

For example, if you’re combatting a lot of negative online reviews, you have the opportunity to codify into your brand voice guide specific ways you’ll discuss and refute those complaints in your messaging moving forward.

Additionally, you could even use this as an opportunity for an even bigger brand overhaul and invest in bold new campaign creative so that the first campaign you run after your PR issue shows your brand looking strong and sharing the right message that your customers need from you in the moment.

While times of negative PR are certainly stressful, there is a lot of opportunity for your brand to come out stronger on the other end. If you feel like your brand could use a reset—whether in the wake of negative attention or not—the B&Y team can help. Reach out to start a conversation.