Crisis Management

By Daymon Standridge

In class recently, we’ve been discussing the idea of the big boardroom question to ask when a new idea is pitched and a company would like to move forward with it. This simple question can be asked by anyone, at any time, “what’s the worst that could happen?” By approaching this question before the idea or product is pushed forward, you are avoiding every company’s worst nightmare: a crisis. A crisis within a company can be detrimental and audiences expect statements immediately, so it’s important to work fast when a crisis comes up.

How a company or brand deals with a crisis could essentially make or break them.  Social media adds pressure to businesses to get statements out in a hurry during a crisis. Successful businesses have been put down because of these poorly handled situations and to help cushion the blow of these unfortunate events, is crisis management.

Crisis management is described as, “the art of avoiding trouble when you can and reacting when you can’t.” Crises are often placed into three categories; creeping crises, slow-burn crises, and sudden crises. All of which, need to be handled quickly and honestly, using a soft and genuine approach. The world of a crisis is very delicate and should be treated as such.

Personally, I think crisis management teams are one of the most important roles within the world of public relations. While everyone else gets to have control over their surroundings and can walk into situations prepared and knowing what they’re getting into, those who deal with crises are always being surprised and shocked by things that are out of their hands. The work they do to put out fires is what keeps businesses afloat in troubled waters. Crisis management teams must be skilled and knowledgeable and prepared for the unexpected, which is an incredibly difficult thing to do.  

A recent example of a company crisis was with a diet Coke Ad on Delta flight that started in January. As a Valentine’s Day advertisement, flight attendants handed out Diet Coke napkins on the flight that said, “because you’re on a plane full of interesting people and hey… you never know.” and had a spot for a passenger to write their name and phone number to give to their “plane crush.” The napkins received very mixed reviews on Twitter while some people thought the idea was cute, others thought it was creepy and upsetting.

The negative responses overwhelmed the positive ones, resulting in the napkins being removed from the flights and both Delta and Coke issuing formal apologies. From CNN, Coke said, “We worked with our partners at Delta to begin removing the napkins last month and are replacing them with other designs.” Delta said, “We rotate coke products regularly on our aircrafts as part of our brand partnership, but missed the mark with this one. We are sorry for that.” The apologies seemed sincere and it seems they’ve been accepted by most people affected by the napkins.

It is important to realize that a crisis can come out of nowhere and rock your company or brand. The best way to handle a crisis is to be prepared and ready to make moves that will be beneficial to your company. The basic rule of thumb when dealing with a crisis is to “tell it first, tell it fast, and tell them what you’re going to do about it.” By following these steps, you can minimize the damage of a crisis and work to make things better in the future.

Twitter: @daymonblaine

Blog: https://publicconnections349456173.wordpress.com/

This Article Has 9 Comments
  1. Molly Mair says:

    Crisis management teams are brilliant for big companies, but the smaller operations who have one harried SM person, I am not sure. I feel like managers need to be cognizant of the unknowns but added to all the other responsibilities I see how easily it is put on a back burner. Who does the crisis plan creation belong to? Is this a top down or bottom up initiative? As we morph into a world of personal brands, do we need to create our own crisis management plan? I like the questions that popped up while reading your post.

  2. Madelyn Dwyer says:

    Hi Daymon,

    Thanks for adding to our conversation about crisis communication/management in social media. I agree that it is such an important part of public relations and should not be neglected by organizations. I’ve been also hearing about the Delta/Coke napkin crisis. Stephen Colbert actually commented on it in one of his recent segments, which has been posted to YouTube and now has over 830k views–another way that crises can be expanded through social media. I’m guessing no one from Delta or Coke really considered the worst that could happen. With that said, it does appear that they handled the situation well.

  3. Kierstyn Yardley says:

    I enjoyed reading this post! I agree that crisis management is so important for every company and that companies should not ignore it. I’ve seen a lot of social media posts about Delta and the Coke napkin crisis. Another example that has stood out to me over the years is when Adidas tweeted after the Boston Marathon saying, “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” Clearly no employee thought through this tweet before posting it, which resulted in a huge crisis management issue for Adidas. Adidas handled the situation well by immediately deleting the tweet and sending out an apology letter. I think this example shows how important it is for a company to be prepared for crisis situation.

  4. TJ McCourt says:

    This post is great! One of the main take ways i took out of this lecture was that it is very important to ask what the worst that can happen is. If no one is asking then, then no one is considering the reproductions that a bad decision can have. I also strongly agree that crisis management teams are one of the most important roles of public relations.

  5. Joie Ryan says:

    Hi Daymon, I really enjoyed this post! I hadn’t heard of this crisis example with Delta and Coca-Cola yet and thought it was extremely beneficial and interesting to tie up your post. While asking the question, “what’s the worst that could happen?” will allow companies to take in all aspects of a new campaign, ultimately a crisis is almost always, unpredictable. I also really liked how you discussed both the negative and positive feedback found on social media, as well as the final statement from Delta. Great job!

  6. Erin Joo says:

    I thought that our lecture focused on crisis was extremely interesting (it’s hard to believe such huge mistakes can be made so easily) so thank you for supplementing it with this post. I think what’s great about this post is that is relatable to any business at any given time. Like you said, a crisis can literally come out of nowhere. I think that the example you provided is great considering that it wasn’t receiving overwhelmingly negative responses, but just enough to create noticeable damage. It is much better to be overly prepared rather than be blind sided by a crisis.

  7. Ryan Robledo says:

    Whether people realize it or not, crisis management is an art form that is extremely hard to have as an ability. It is an ability that causes companies to survive events that otherwise would or could put their business to an end. I wasn’t aware of Diet Coke’s valentines day advertisement plan with Delta Airlines. I didn’t know that they did this advertisement so it shows you how well their crisis management team did in burying this. There are many different ways that Diet Coke situation could have gone but due to a good crisis management team they were able to handle it quickly. Some other businesses don’t have that luxury and unfortunately fail due to their own mistakes.

  8. Robert Emmett says:

    Daymon,

    This is a great blog post regarding the importance of crisis management and its role within an organization. I agree with you in regards to how imperative it is for a corporation, either large or small, to have a crisis management team. Mismanaging a crisis can have a huge impact on an organization and it’s essential for any company to have a well-defined crisis management plan to be well-prepared for any possible crisis that might occur.

  9. Hannah Blair says:

    I really enjoyed this post! I completely agree that a crisis can make or break a company, and social media just adds to the chaos of it. As Robert said, having a crisis management plan in place is essential for a company and can prevent more damage before it’s done.

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