The spotlight on crisis communications and reputation management has become increasingly bright amid the current news cycle, ongoing scandal trends and call for accountability and transparency. Companies, brands and executives have become acutely aware of the importance of a good reputation as a negative one could impact a company’s bottom line. According to research conducted by ICM Unlimited in partnership with Harvard Business Review, “a company with 10,000 employees could be spending as much as $7.6 million in additional wages to make up for a poor reputation.”
So how does a company brace for the inevitable crisis or turn around a stained reputation? They turn to experts including our Cocktail & Conversations panelists featured at our March 13, 2018, panel discussion, to proactively create plans and strategies in advance of issues as well as assess a company’s reputation to identify the key strengths and weakness to right the ship to align its character. We spoke to a few of our panelists to get their professional take.
How important has the role of crisis communications become in the last year?
“With the rise of new technologies and a quickly changing regulatory landscape, organizations face a variety of new legal, financial and reputational vulnerabilities. At the same time, through the growth of social platforms, the voices of influencers—and even those not traditionally considered influencers—are gaining more and more weight in shaping public opinion, and doing so with speed.” (Kerry Golds, Director, Finsbury)
“We have seen another important sea of change in corporate activism, with company CEOs and Leadership teams taking a stand or position on politicized issues. While leaning into social issues that are authentic to a company’s values or practice can add relevance, it can also badly backfire and have a polarizing effect.” (Pamela Gill Alabaster, SVP Corporate Communications, Revlon Inc.)
How crucial is it for brands and companies to have a crisis plan in place before an issue arises?
“Extremely crucial. Companies often make the worst mistakes in their initial responses. Well organized crisis teams, risk inventories and simulation training can help companies avoid missteps that might escalate or prolong a crisis.” (Dawn Dover, Managing Director, Kekst and Company)
“An established crisis communications framework and in advance preparation are essential to affective crisis communications. In a crisis, a company’s response is often interpreted as a direct reflection of its leadership and core values. The tone, speed and accuracy of communication are key factors that determine whether a company can maintain stakeholder trust and quickly resume core business activities, or whether it will need to divest time and resources following an incident to restore its reputation.” (Pamela Gill Alabaster, SVP Corporate Communications, Revlon Inc).
What is the most common misconception of crisis communications and reputation management?
“A company in crisis must take real, tangible actions—from investigating what happened to making amends—in order to support a meaningful turnaround story. Communications alone cannot resolve a crisis.” (Kerry Golds, Director, Finsbury)
“Most common misconception is that anything can be hidden from the public. And if a company is not attuned to chatter among employees or on social media, they are likely to miss early warning signs, lose valuable time and limit options available to them to mitigate a crisis.” (Dawn Dover, Managing Director, Kekst and Company)
Regardless of the type of issue, crisis communications and advanced planning is vital to restore reputation, regain trust and ultimately move a company past the situation. To hear more from our panel of experts, join us on March 13, 2018.