IT happens (this is a PG blog, but you know what I mean). Sometimes it happens and seems like it keeps happening, one body shot after another after another, followed by a vicious right hook to the jaw. We’ve all been their. A particular product starts going downhill, an initiative or a project slips down the bad PR slope (and maybe keeps sliding), or a slew of bad news that negatively impacts your brand seems to keep coming. Sometimes the bad can be like a train wreck you see coming a mile away but are powerless. Sometimes it takes you totally by surprise. Either way, its can be simply awful to have the bad news snowballing into a potential brand-busting situation. What is one to do in a scenario like that?
- 1. Take a deep breath.2. Put things in perspective.3. Take it one issue at a time.
I can hear your collective eye rolls now. Yes, I know – all of us marketers/advertisers/brand people do – that in situations such as described above you barely have time to actually take a breath, but less “put things into perspective” or “take it one issue at a time.” So what advice do I offer for you? Well, first and foremost, I strongly recommend that whatever tactical ways you attack the issue, be sure and take the strategic position that you will not let your brand be overwhelmed by set of circumstances at hand.
Easier said than done, yes I know. But in many if not most cases, your brand continues to operate with a strong legacy and set of principles and practices that continue through whatever “crisis” is brewing. Your customer service is still excellent. You still offer a quality product. Your prices are still affordable. You still have a positive impact on the economy. You still foster innovation. Etc. Whatever it may be, the foundation that you built a quality brand is likely still there. So here are my three (real) pieces of advice for maintaining brand equity why the sky is falling.
1. Continue to promote the good aspects of your brand.
Continuing the string of thought above, it is advisable to pick out the two or three strongest aspects of your brand (not directed effected by the crisis events) and work to ensure that you have a steady stream of marketing that is communicating these aspects. These aspects may be directly related to products of services you offer, or may be related to more “community” type aspects such as charitable works or economic/social impact, or something along those lines.
Yes, there is some trepidation about self promotion if there’s a lot of bad news surrounding your brand. And sure, you have to use common sense when doing this. A crisis that is occurring a much larger scale – i.e. natural disaster – doesn’t apply to this discussion. That said, a lot of companies still are cautious when bad news is surrounding their brand, and this often results in a scaling back “self promotional” marketing. This is a mistake. Not to say that you should mask what’s going on by over saturating with “self-promotional” marketing, but it should be steady and consistent.
If you’re in the unenviable situation of trying to “sell” company leadership on self-promotional marketing during times of bad news, I would certainly push the truism that brand equity is tied in with perceived value. You’re already likely taking a hit in that area due to the bad news. If your company is involved with community service and/or charitable activities, a decrease in your brand equity will likely decrease your ability to participate in community and charity aspects. Helping to maintain brand equity helps to maintain the ability to “do good,” therefore its worth the investment.
2. Remember that social media is a conversation.
If you’re reading this, you likely also use social media in some shape, form, or fashion to market your business. You may have also read/heard/absorbed me preaching about using social media socially. That is to say, its not a wire service for press releases or a broadcast channel for advertising. It is a forum for dialogue and interaction with your consumers and users. This doesn’t mean you have to respond to every crazy tweet posted or Facebook comment, but you should be perceived as being active and engaged. Don’t avoid the bad news with your social media, rather use it as a medium to respond and explain. The worse way to use your social media in times of crisis is to pump out what can be viewed as “propaganda” that is all one-way in nature.
(BTW, part of your communications strategy should be how to use social media during times of bad news).
3. Attack it comprehensively and consistently.
Related to what was discussed in point one above, you don’t have to overdue it with positive messaging, but what you have to absolutely guard against is having your brand with all its positive attributes being buried by the brief but intense period of bad news. Your communications strategy should be comprehensive for one. And this isn’t necessarily to promote frequency of message as it is reach. For instance, there can be a riot against your brand on Twitter that doesn’t reach some of your other demographics, but can cause major headaches nonetheless (just ask several former Middle Eastern dictators). Effecting sentiment in the manner that you want requires a comprehensive media approach across all applicable media platforms.
And this approach should also be consistent. This doesn’t mean messaging can’t be tailored for specific media for specific audiences – it probably should be. But the underlying message and takeaway should be basically the same in all communications.
BONUS POINT – A Crisisitunity? At no extra cost to you, I’ve included a fourth point. This is not so much a “tip” as a “state of mind” type aspect. According to Lisa Simpson, the Chinese use the same work for “crisis” as for “opportunity” (urban myth alert). If your company does tackle a crisis or bad news environment with messaging that reinforces the credible and positive aspects of your brand, there’s a good chance that you can actually some out stronger and better on the other side. Here’s hoping, any way.