How To Recover from a Brand Crisis

Great piece in the current issue of the Economist looking at how to recover from a brand crisis. Using Brand Tiger as a lead in, they look at how several companies have responded well. The column has a great set of questions to ask early in a crises to help determine response:

The key to a successful relaunch lies in making a cool-headed assessment of how much the scandal damages your company. Does it involve life and limb, rather than less consequential matters? Has it spread beyond particular products or particular divisions to afflict the entire corporate brand? If the answer to both questions is yes, then companies are well advised to go into collective overdrive; if it is no, then they can experiment with more nuanced responses, such as lopping off a tainted product or sacrificing a rogue division.

Marsh & McLennan and JetBlue are used as example in the “good” category, even though in the case of JetBlue the CEO ended up stepping down (while he handled the crisis admirably). The final piece of advice is at once simple and hard to do – in a crisis, remember to focus on the customer and customer needs, and not on your company or brand. As they note:

Companies have a habit of acting like Jack when their brands are in trouble—talking endlessly about how they are fixing this or reorganising that. But most successful decontaminators look at the world’s from Jill’s point of view. Johnson & Johnson’s handling of the Tylenol crisis (when an unidentified attacker poisoned some bottles of the painkiller) is the gold standard of crisis management because the company simply recalled all Tylenol without hesitation or demur. Similarly, Edward Breen, the boss of Tyco, rescued the conglomerate’s reputation after his predecessor, Dennis Kozlowski, was imprisoned, by launching a public-relations campaign that focused on what the company’s products do to improve people’s lives.

And I’ll add – talk less, do more. Actions have way more impact than words!

One Response to “How To Recover from a Brand Crisis”

  1. Ally Says:

    Crisis management has become a recent interest of mine. In my opinion, the best way to handle a crisis in a business or organization is communication, of course. Ideally, businesses and organizations will have a crisis plan outlined before a crisis even occurs – this makes handling the situation much more efficient. Every business or organization should have a crisis communication plan and perhaps even practice the plan, if not physically, then at least by a mental run-through. For those companies and organizations whose reputation survives a crisis, it seems to be because they were involved in three key actions steps: the planning that occurs before, moderation of the event during, and a debriefing and adjusting period afterwards. I agree that actions have way more impact than words. Although, companies who only act, and fail to provide words (communicate), tend to be unable to preserve their reputation. A good example of crisis communication handled effectively is the Southwest Airlines/Kevin Smith incident. When Kevin Smith attacked Southwest on Twitter, the company responded. Not only did they respond to Mr. Smith, but they responded to other concerned customers as well. They also posted a blog on their website about the incident. Although they received negative feedback and comments from Smith and his following, they left the comments posted on their blog for all to see. This open communication allowed Southwest to take control of the situation and manage their brand. This example is in direct contrast to the crisis situation faced by Nestle. Nestle recently received a lot of negative attention from Greenpeace and their following. Customers and other concerned citizens attacked the company on Facebook. Unlike Southwest, Nestle failed to respond to any of the comments. Not only that, they actually took their Facebook page down for awhile. By not communicating, the company was not taking control of their brand.

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