The risk of not knowing what you don’t know when it comes to reputational management

By 10th March 2017healthcare

If right now, a crisis in your business happened what would you do?

A. Panic

B. Nothing – let’s see if it goes away

C. Calmly set into motion our crisis procedures

I suspect most answered either A or B. The truth is you can always plan for a crisis, even if you don’t know yet what it’s going to entail. By not, you’re taking a serious gamble with your business – it’s your reputation and it’s your profits.

Last week we received a call from a panicking business that had seen one of its employees doing something they shouldn’t have been doing on a local TV news bulletin.

They wanted some help in case they were asked to respond to a media enquiry.

We helped them. But what became clear while providing guidance was that the internal and external management of the crisis were seen as two separate issues by the company.

They were confident their internal procedures were watertight – the offending employee had been suspended pending an investigation and that was it, job done from their perspective.

When we started talking about employee communications and their social media policy the confidence levels dropped.

“We’re not very good at social media.” came the response.

A quick search on the brand name and it was evident they’re really not very good at social media.

There was a dearth of complaints that weren’t responded to on its Twitter feed along with some great feedback that wasn’t acknowledged either.

And one employee – not the same one as featured in the local news bulletin – took delight in taking pictures while at work and using expletives – alongside the company handle – to make sure the client understood his point about service levels.

How well any company responds to a crisis depends on how prepared it is before it happens. You need to anticipate the risk and mitigate it as much as possible in advance so, when a crisis does hit, you’ve already got most of your ducks pointing in the same direction.

Then when one does come along it’s a relatively simple process of:

  • Finding out exactly what happened
  • Finding out why it happened
  • Taking action to make sure it doesn’t happen again
  • Taking responsibility for the crisis and saying sorry for the impact it has caused

In the case of the company who called us there were a number of things it could and should have done to prevent the crisis happening in the first place.

It was an issue they could have reasonably anticipated and should have proactively communicated to their workforce about.

At best this foresight would have prevented the crisis happening in the first place. At worst, it would have provided the grounds to sack rather than just suspend the employee when they got caught on camera doing something they shouldn’t have been doing.

That would have saved them the HR time and investment to investigate and protected the brand in one simple step.

It would have also made formulating the external response easier, a responsible company, being proactive and taking decisive action when an issue occurs.

As it was the brand was secondary to the story. We advised that we didn’t feel they would have to respond externally, and they didn’t.

But they’ve still got a problem with their social media. Only now they do know what they don’t know – and they’re in touch with the right people to help them fix it.

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