It's rare, but Texas has had some brutal winter storms that caused death, disaster and destruction throughout the state. The recent “snowpocalyspe” provided a historic lesson in what to do and what not to do in a crisis. Here are five takeaways to ensure your brand doesn’t endure a cold-hard lesson in crisis:
1. Plan for the worst. Align with your leadership and consider “what if” scenarios that could occur. Audit past crises that have impacted your company and evaluate how leadership responded at the time. Learn from what they did well and what could have been done better. Audit your business category to understand what crises other brands endured and how they have managed. Develop a response plan, messaging and stakeholder engagement guides, as well as the tools needed to be successful when a crisis happens. Tools could be communications platforms, vendors, experts, among other resources to help you normalize business operations.
2. Establish a communications framework and cadence. Every crisis warrants a different level of communication. The framework should consider all audiences and the varying levels of communications they need at each point in the crisis. In the beginning, when stakeholders are most impacted, high amounts of communication and access to information helps to ensure clarity and support. Whether it’s internal or external, make sure to keep your audiences up to date in a timely, effective manner.
“Further, the brands that will be most successful in 2021 are building a community. Companies who win in the long run have a deeply knitted, purposeful relationship with stakeholders.”
3. Lean into your core values. While brands are treating crisis communications more seriously than ever, they need to remember their core values when determining a response and the role communications plays with all audiences. In a crisis, leadership needs to be able to make decisions quickly. The best way to do this is to filter decisions through your brand’s core values. If the direction aligns with your core values, vision/mission or purpose keep moving forward. If it doesn’t, go another direction.
Further, the brands that will be most successful in 2021 are building a community. Companies who win in the long run have a deeply knitted, purposeful relationship with stakeholders. They see employees and customers as part of their brand and rooted in their core values — a true asset they will invest in to protect.
A great example of a purpose-driven brand is Texas-based retail grocery chain H-E-B. The company has proven time and time again to be a vital, reliable source that their customers, employees and communities can rely on in any situation. H-E-B was a lifeline when the community needed it — sharing resources and messages in an efficient manner to ensure all audiences with or without power were reached. H-E-B is paving the way for how companies should communicate to become a more trustworthy brand.
4. Align all communications efforts. Too often a brand’s misstep in a crisis is when they trip over their own communications. Consider what efforts to pause in your business while you weather the storm. A good communicator knows that social media drives news and news drives social media — it's a crisis whirlpool. For the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), it was the perfect storm with a combination of exposed business issues and an inadequate response plan and poor communication. As a result, consumer trust was lost. Once that trust is broken, it’s hard to regain. Arm your social media team with empathetic messaging and empower them to serve your community and inform you of needs and how the situation is evolving online.
5. What you do post-crisis prepares you for the next one. Too often after a crisis ends leaders are exhausted and fail to reflect on lessons learned. To ensure success in the next crisis, you must reflect on what worked, what didn’t and how to strategically plan while placing an importance on core values and core concerns from your stakeholders. This is complete once you update all crisis planning materials and guides.
If you have these five areas covered your brand will have a better opportunity to maintain trust and mitigate any reputational issues that occur in a crisis.
Jessica Nuñez is the founder and president of TruePoint Communications, an integrated communications agency that propels brands forward. Launched in 2006, Jessica has grown TruePoint to be among the Top 100 PR agencies in the U.S., earning rankings under Best Places to Work, and three consecutive years on Inc. 5000’s list of Fastest Growing Companies. Jessica has deep experience in directing integrated marketing campaigns and large-scale PR and social media strategies. Jessica is an expert in crisis communications, helping organizations navigate and mitigate issues that impact reputation and revenue. She leverages 20 years of on-camera experience coupled with crisis expertise to provide valuable counsel for executives and brand spokespeople. Nuñez is also a board member of the IABC Dallas Chapter.