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.