Let’s face it: in all likelihood, your brand will face a crisis someday. Wouldn’t it be nice to avoid it altogether? Of course, avoidance is easier said than done (and in many cases impossible), but being prepared for that inevitable crisis means you can avoid a situation in which a small problem spirals out of control. Follow these three rules to gracefully avoid an even bigger crisis:
Establishing a person or team of people who is empowered to quickly make decisions is key when attempting to control an issue. In a crisis, action needs to happen within minutes or hours, not days or weeks. Nike recently proved the importance of this in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy. Their “Boston Massacre” T-shirts in stores had nothing to do with the horrific events at this year’s marathon—they were a reference to the Boston Red Sox/ New York Yankees rivalry. But in light of recent events, the phrase “Boston Massacre” took on another meaning. Nike immediately pulled the shirts from stores before anyone noticed the accidental faux pas, avoiding what could have been a big misunderstanding—and most likely a huge backlash—from consumers.
Apologize and try to make it right.
Instead of avoiding the fact that a mistake was made, own up to it and explain the steps you’ll take to rectify the situation. Mistakes happen, and often times it’s a brand’s reaction (or lack thereof) that causes a crisis to brew, not the issue that arose in the first place. Back in October 2012, a KitchenAid employee posted an inappropriate tweet regarding the newly re-elected President to the company’s social media account. The head of KitchenAid’s social media department quickly jumped in to apologize to everyone (including the President himself!), explain that the employee’s tweet did not reflect the opinion of the brand and to clarify that the employee would no longer be tweeting for KitchenAid. While it was too late to avoid controversy and a fair amount of chatter, KitchenAid circumvented further problems—and gained some respect— by apologizing and being up front about the situation.
Communicate clearly and often.
Lululemon’s recent see-through yoga pants crisis could have been a lot worse had the company not immediately recalled the too-revealing pants along with offering their customers a complete refund or exchange. They reinforced their commitment to resolving the situation by keeping consumers and the media updated through press releases and an FAQ on their website. The CEO even made herself available for conference calls with media.
While you can’t avoid unforeseen issues, you can create a plan for how your company will handle them. Having that plan in place can be the difference between a small problem and a major headache.