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By: Akansh
Corporate crises, like wildfires, start with a tiny spark and spread really fast. In the heat of the moment, most companies lose sight and end up making statements that result in unhappy customers and employees. It is important for companies to keep their cool especially at times of disaster. Companies need to bear in mind that their brand is nothing but their stakeholders think of them, which is primarily their customers and employees. A catastrophic situation generates undesirable feelings in stakeholders and the same need to be addressed in a humane manner. This is the objective of a crisis communication strategy.

Some important elements of effective crisis communication are:

Be accessible- In the face of a disaster, it is natural to want to draw into a shell. However, this will not work in combating a catastrophic situation. Being silent is a strategy that many companies take during a disastrous situation. However, this route would only adversely affect the brand. Going off-record garners distrust and breeds unnecessary rumors and blows the issue out of proportion. When something’s gone wrong, the customer is seeking a response and assurance. This is the time, more than ever, that the brand needs to activate a crisis communication plan and be reachable and responsive.

Be empathetic-The key is being empathetic. Address your customers as one of them, be understanding of their situation. Simply delivering a statement off a script would not be effective in reaching out to your customers. Be personal and involved while communicating rather than being stiff and indifferent.

Be transparent-When a company goes off-record, customers still give it the benefit of doubt. If a company deliberately tries to conceal its shortcomings, it is definitely going to face a downfall. If you are at fault, be honest and forthright, take responsibility and take immediate remedial measures. Customers willingly forgive incompetence but not indifference. Also, be direct in your communication; skirting around the issue only causes commotion and frustration.

Be prompt-When your customers’ favorite brand goes wrong, they are waiting for an explanation that will reassure them. Speed and timing are the pillars of communication during a disaster situation. Use the information at hand and release a statement stating that this is the latest update and that you will continue to update as the issue is investigated and resolved. Delay in communication causes irritation and anxiety amongst the customers.

Be prepared–The best way to combat a disaster is to be of course be prepared. Have a plan in place. Identify potential sources such as a leadership change, a shift in market, data breach, employee churn and formulate a plan on how to effectively manage it. While it is true that any problem comes unannounced, you need to foresee possible causes and formulate a contingency plan to that extent.

These are some of the strategies you can implement to ensure that you are equipped in the face of a sticky situation. A strategically planned approach can help retain your customers’ confidence and win them back.

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