Crisis communication: Owning it.

2016 has given us a couple of shining examples of what to do and what not to do when it comes to companies owning a crisis.

Telstra – how to own an outage crisis

I take my hat off to Telstra for their handling of a recent mass network outage that impacted 8 million customers.

Their CEO came out immediately after the event to apologise for the outage, express his disappointment that it happened (this is the third outage for the year), explain why it happened and take action by announcing a free data day for all Telstra customers.

Working through any checklist of crisis communication 101, Telstra ticked a lot boxes with this approach – coming out with an immediate response, showing empathy and transparency, and taking proactive steps to manage customer relationships.

In short, Telstra owned it – this is what happened, this is why and here’s what we’re going to do about it.

Gold Bus Ballarat – how to avoid (and lose an opportunity to manage) a crisis

On this one, I put my head in my hands and cringe when I think about how Gold Bus Ballarat managed its crisis.

First, picture the scene. A Gold Bus Ballarat bus – 3.8-metres high, carrying 15 passengers – tries to go under a 3-metre high bridge and crashes into it. Firefighters say it’s a miracle no one is seriously injured – although later 3 passengers are believed to have major injuries.

Media flock to accidents like this one. Imagine the photo opportunity – bridge and bus smashed into each other. Imagine the passenger accounts. Words like ‘terrified’, ‘ducking for cover’ and ‘painful ordeal’ are thrown around on radio, social media, etc.

What does Gold Bus Ballarat do? They say nothing and tape over their brand name on the side of the bus. Then what happens? Photos are posted on social media of a man taping over their brand. These photos appear across print and online news channels alongside the spectacular crash shots of the bus.

Why Gold Bus Ballarat, why?! Their Director said they were protecting their brand. Gold Bus Ballarat, that’s not the way to do it.

How to protect your brand and own any crisis

  1. Get ready – prepare for worse case scenarios, train your spokespersons and draft key messages.
  2. Own it – once it hits, own up to your mistakes and/or role in the crisis.
  3. Be clear – explain what happened and why using empathy and transparency.
  4. Provide next steps – what are you doing now to resolve it?
  5. Outline a possible solution – how will you prevent it happening again?
  6. Monitor customer feedback – establish your own customer channels or set up media monitoring to gauge public perception of your brand during and after a crisis.
  7. Review your performance – once the crisis is over, what worked and what didn’t? There’s (usually) always room for improvement.

Being proactive and prepared will give you the greatest possibility of surviving a crisis. Our team of strategists and implementers can work with you to prepare and plan for a crisis.

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