6 ways to manage a brand during unexpected crisis

Guest Column: Hitesh Raj Bhagat, Global Head of Corporate Communications, Truecaller, shared some insights on crisis management from personal experience

e4m by Hitesh Raj Bhagat
Published: Aug 26, 2021 1:03 PM  | 5 min read

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently” - Warren Buffett

Many brands, at some point in time, can face a crisis and the way one responds can either give you the desired image boost or significantly damage your brand, ultimately devolving your customer base and business partners. Most of us don’t oversee huge brand announcements, but sooner or later, every team faces an unanticipated crisis: where technology breaks, a competitor makes a disruptive move, a promising project fails, a key employee quits, consumers have a negative reaction to a new product — the list is long. Some people are good at handling the unexpected, but most aren’t. Under stress and time pressure, it’s difficult to stay calm, diagnose a problem, and come up with solutions.

Building a brand from scratch is a laborious process that includes a series of steps from generating good content to reaching the right audience and a lot of things run in the background. But When a public relations crisis strikes, anyone’s initial reaction may be to stonewall or act defensively among the media and public and refuse to comment. That is exactly where the situation gets worse!

Brands that have successfully handled numerous situations with crisis management strategies understand this is the wrong way to address the problem. They urge the opposite of it — an immediate, earnest, sincere, and full public disclosure.

Another close observation is that most of the brand-related crises have been lately breaking through social media (mostly Twitter) which is heavily used now to break any news.

Sharing some insights on handling the crisis from personal experience :

    • Meeting the crises Head on! - Although every crisis has some unique aspects, there are general principles that apply to most of the situations. Whatever the crisis, the media and the public want to know what happened and one should truthfully face it.
    • Communicate fast, often and truthfully - Timely and honest communication among all stakeholders is the key to successful crisis response. Remember, if you don’t tell your own story, someone else will (and it might not go in your favour).
    • Stick to the three C’s (Concern, Control and Commitment) - A brand's first priority should be its consumers and how they are affected. For a responsible company, controlling the situation and staying true to its commitment comes first even before the brand reputation, It's the people who make or break it.
    • Be Ready For Social Media Backlash - The worst thing a brand can do is ignore the possibility of a  firestorm on social media. Smaller organizations and especially those that are not active on social media. Even if a company is not marketing on social media does not mean their customers won't put them in check on those platforms when something goes wrong. Have a plan and review it often!
    • Avoid Knee-Jerk Reactions - Companies or brand representatives often provide emotional, frenetic responses. Going silent on social media is not a bad thing when you are monitoring a crisis. Stop all external communication until you can assess what’s going on. Be sure that the first external communication following the crisis is a well-thought-out response that resonates with your consumers.
    • Insist on accuracy in the media and be proactive 

Let's take Truecaller as an example. Because of the nature of our work, there always seems to be a crisis around the corner. It’s no secret that the company deals with a large amount of data (a factor of having close to 280 million active users). Not only do we deal with this data but also the data submitted by these users. Fighting spam is best done as a community-driven exercise - our consumers know that static spammer lists will not work so they are constantly reporting on numbers, marking them as spam, scam, fraud, harassment or simply correcting and updating false names. Consumers get nothing out of doing this except a sense of satisfaction: for having contributed to keeping everyone else a little safer.

Now, with that data also comes a lot of responsibility, Which is why the company practices data minimization (capturing only the exact amount of data needed in order for the services to function, nothing more) and it’s also why all that data is 100% stored in India (without any foreign backups or mirrors). Until stringent data protection laws exist everywhere, we are offering GDPR requirements to all consumers irrespective of their location. We’re quite vocal about these things because we believe in user privacy. So where do the crises come in? One sort of crisis happens when dubious sms marketing agencies misuse our brand name while selling data. They do this because our brand is well-known, it lends credibility to their data and they can charge higher prices. But we get stuck in the crossfire. So we have to tackle it. Another example is wrong or objectionable names on Truecaller sometimes get called out - and it can get ugly! These names are added by users and objectionable names can sometimes slip through the algorithms because people use alternate spellings, spaces or even dots. We’re constantly blacklisting bad names. Hopefully, I was able to offer some insight into crises and how we manage them. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com 

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