Basic guide to managing a reputational crisis

In previous posts of this blog, we talked about how to create a communication plan effective for your company and in it we mentioned reputation crises. In this post we wanted to stop to provide more information on its management and, starting from the beginning, we begin by explaining what it is: a reputation crisis is a situation that negatively affects the company's image, harming consumers and/or shareholders. Crisis management is the ability to foresee and act in the face of possible situations that negatively affect the company's reputation.

Responses to a reputation crisis

 There are two types of response to a reputation crisis: defensive and responsible. Within the defensive response we can find different types of strategy:

  • Non-existence: consists of pretending there is no problem and attacking or ignoring the accuser.
  • Distancing: justifying or excusing by trying to reduce the seriousness of the matter, without assuming responsibilities.
  • Ingratiation: to make friends with those affected and the media so as not to appear to be the one to blame for the crisis.

In the responsible response there are two other types of strategies:

  • Mortification: repent and take responsibility for everything that has happened and rectify it if necessary.
  • Suffering: to assume the consequences of what happened.

6 pillars of transparent communication

 All good crisis management must be based on certain pillars so that communication is clear and transparent.

  1. Honesty: Acknowledge mistakes if there are any and apologize if necessary. The appropriate responsibilities must be assumed and a commitment must be made not to make the same mistakes again.
  2. Sincerity: the attitude sustained over time must be one of openness, listening and empathy where everything that is said must be complied with.
  3. Consistency: what is told must be in line with the purpose, vision and values.
  4. Clarity: the story of what is being told must avoid technicalities, words, data, images, etc. that do not contribute to a quick and simple understanding of what is happening.
  5. AccessibilityThe possibility of accessing this information in an easy way. Its availability must be total and measures must be taken to ensure this through the channels and tools that ensure it.
  6. StrictnessEverything that is said and done must be verifiable. It is necessary to provide the data and the ways to verify it and to keep track of the evolution.

10 basic principles for reputation crisis management

  1. A good analysis allows us to know what will happen. To analyze the situation, to know where it may evolve, to know what is happening to us, why it is happening to us and who it may affect.
  2. Do not forget anyone. Knowing exactly who our interlocutors are and knowing our audiences will help us not to forget anyone in the management of a crisis.
  3. To have the information is to have the agenda of the crisis. Having good internal communication circuits will allow us to know what is happening and why it is happening. If we have the right information we can make the right decisions.
  4. The spokesperson, a key figure in crisis management. Knowing who should speak, what to say and when to say it is essential to convey messages appropriately during a crisis. The spokesperson must be someone who knows the company well and who conveys trust, proximity, security and credibility.
  5. Knowing the communication channels available to us. Most organizations are not aware of the communication channels available to them.
  6. The information must be serious, transparent, truthful and clear. In a crisis, silence is not profitable; it is necessary to inform and this must be done from the very beginning and, above all, the information must be rigorous, intelligible to our public and transparent.
  7. External communication begins with internal communication. In a crisis, the first means of communication available to us are the members of the organization itself. Forgetting and neglecting them will work against us.
  8. The crisis committee, a tool for crisis management. Knowing who is managing a crisis and who should make decisions at any given moment makes it easier to deal with risk situations.
  9. To have a communication plan is to have a solution. Having a crisis communication plan allows us not to improvise. A plan will determine the messages to be delivered, the audiences that should receive them, the media to be used and the right moment for each action.
  10. Real crisis management begins the next day. It is the day after a communication crisis when the real task of crisis management begins, analyzing what has happened, determining what needs to be improved and deciding what actions we should take to prevent new crises, being critical of ourselves. Crises cannot be foreseen, but the way we react can.

Now then... How is a crisis manual prepared?

 Although there is no set way to prepare a crisis manual, there are certain common guidelines. Here are some tips on how to prepare a good crisis manual:

  1. Define risk map: At this point, we make a list of possible situations in which the company's reputation could be affected. Once identified, they must be categorized according to their seriousness.
  2. Identification of sources: define whether the sources are internal or external.
  3. Messages to be transmitted: a message must be developed for the possible risk situations that we have identified in the previous steps, which is why it is necessary to dedicate time to the risk map.
  4. Crisis Committee: It is very important to have a structured crisis committee, so that when I know of such a situation there is no doubt as to who performs what action.
    1. Director of the committee: defines the crisis level, convenes the committee and directs the actions of each.
    2. Internal spokesperson: is responsible for communicating the situation to the company. Position: human resources manager.
    3. External spokesperson: is in charge of communication with the media. Position: Director of Communications.
    4. Telephone spokesperson: takes care of calls.
    5. Advisors: collect information and provide technical advice to the committee.
  5. Action protocol: when a reputational crisis occurs, it is necessary to act quickly, therefore, an action protocol must be established.
  6. Media: It is necessary to have established both the means of communication and the way to contact them in order to act as quickly as possible.
  7. Social Media: it is very important to social media management and even more so today. Many crises originate online and, therefore, have their solution there. Some of the keys to good management of social media during a crisis:
    1. Actively listen to the problems and comments of the people who come to us.
    2. Speak to them in a transparent and appropriate manner.
  8. Respond to those affected: successful crisis management requires a face to face approach and contact with affected audiences.
  9. Conduct drills: This point is essential, since theory is all very well, but it is necessary to practice everything stipulated in the manual so that if at any time it is necessary, all the members of the company and the committee know how to act and communicate in the event of a crisis.

As conclusions, we could say that in order to correctly solve a reputation crisis it is necessary to...

  • Anticipation
  • Speed
  • Transparency
  • Have a crisis manual
  • Empathizing with those affected

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