Getting your company ready for crisis can seem overwhelming. Where do you start? What will really make an impact? The short answer is simple: start with your story.
As the storm begins to set in, others will aggressively attempt to define you. Their attempts are made a lot easier if there is not already a strong picture in place about your company.
This critical component is so often overlooked in even the most robust preparations for crisis.
Yet, it can represent the margin between a minor and a major impact.
How does your story sound during a PR crisis? Many companies fail to factor in the durability of their messaging for those most difficult moments.
Your marketing may work well for sales and shareholders, but how does it hold up when your brand is under threat? These days, it is essential to have a message that can withstand even the most punishing winds.
Brittle brands break. Think about how flexible and forgiving your company’s image is in adverse environments. To achieve this kind of resiliency, it’s important to emphasize not only what you do, but why you do it. Integrate your vision and values.
Show Don’t Tell
Don’t limit storytelling to telling.
Instead, show me what your story looks like in practice. Show us things like the emphasis you place on quality, the extensive training and the extraordinary efforts made to look after your team.
These visuals play a powerful role in contextualizing any issues and portraying the company’s standards.
Here is the real key: the story cannot just be about you. A good counterweight in crisis is to describe the impact your company has on people’s lives. Ideally, they are helping to contribute in communicating the importance of your work.
All of these materials can be developed and deployed before the criticisms commence. This is what I describe as your counter-crisis infrastructure.
It can live on your website, video and social accounts, providing a solid foundation for having even the most difficult discussion about your company.
Crises are moments of maximum exposure. They provide a chance to better educate the public about your work.
Having that strong story already in place will enable you to do much more than minimize damage.
No matter what the conditions, your company can actually have a constructive conversation that engenders greater credibility and confidence.
That is a story with a happy ending.
Brett Bruen teaches crisis at Georgetown University and served as President Obama’s director of global engagement. He is president of the Global Situation Room.