A company crisis typically occurs when something goes horribly awry with your core product or service (Chipotle is a great example) that creates negative publicity, and dents the trust that consumers have in your brand.
But when a crisis throws your company off its axis, don’t shrink away from the coming storm. Instead, make use of these three strategies to turn a low moment for your company into a new opportunity to instill confidence in your core consumers.
1. Take Responsibility For What Went Wrong
Recently, Toyota ignored its accelerator pedal issue, then tried to hide the problem, resulting in a staggering $1.2 billion fine to avoid prosecution in a U.S. federal court.
The carmaker lost money, but more importantly, lost the faith of consumers who had long viewed the company as reliable and trustworthy.
When you suffer a company crisis due to a product defect or some other business issue that directly impacts your consumers, your first reaction should be to take immediate responsibility for what went wrong.
This is a situation in which your PR department earns its keep, because as part of your crisis management, it has to be out front and center with your mea culpa, and ensure that it is distributed across all your content channels, especially social media.
Consumers understand and forgive mistakes – even big ones – but only if they perceive that your company is sincere in its remorse.
2. Take Immediate Corrective Action
It’s also important after a company crisis that you take immediate corrective action.
Years ago, Tylenol suffered a major public relations nightmare, when its best-selling Extra-Strength capsules were laced with cyanide, resulting in seven deaths.
Johnson & Johnson – the manufacturer of Tylenol – recalled 31 million bottles of the capsules, action that was immediate and decisive.
Because Johnson & Johnson didn’t hesitate to begin correcting the problem, the public saw a company that not only took responsibility for the tragedy, but also took action to prevent more deaths.
Within two months, the company released a tamper-proof version of its capsules, and offered free replacements to anyone who still had the old product.
When your response to a crisis is immediate and decisive, the public perceives this strong response favorably, and that forceful corrective action can become a hallmark of your company going forward.
It may take some time, but consumers will re-engage with a business that made good after a terrible mistake.
3. Show What You’re Doing To Prevent Future Problems
But even after taking corrective action, you must still show the public what steps you’ve taken to ensure that the mistake doesn’t happen again.
SeaWorld faced this issue after a devastating documentary revealed the way it trained and confined its killer whales.
After public backlash, SeaWorld announced that it would make significant upgrades to its Orca whale habitats, double the size of the tanks at the killer whale show, and build water treadmills to provide its whales with more exercise.
Showing the public the strategies you’ve implemented to prevent future disasters builds trust in consumers, and gives you the chance to express your company’s values, which is one of the keys to branding.
Crises Trigger Re-evaluation
A company crisis that negatively affects your consumers can also provide you with opportunities to reevaluate your business processes and determine what areas need improvement. If you respond to a crisis with accountability and corrective action, and you can also implement methods to prevent future problems, you can not only rebuild consumer trust, you can strengthen your company’s core values.