Maintaining Brand Integrity During a Crisis

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When times are hard, acting and speaking from a place of authenticity won’t steer you wrong. Ring true.

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For many brand managers today, crisis management and communications aren’t a top-of-mind priority. Fortune 500 companies with in-house PR functions may have crisis plans and governance in place. But even then, crisis events are inherently unpredictable and challenging for brands.

Managing and communicating through crisis in a way that is aligned with your brand is critical. Done right, you can navigate difficult situations with humility and authenticity, and be stronger for it. Done wrong, you’ll likely pay a heavy price in terms of brand reputation, customer loyalty, and even your bottom line.

With this in mind, here are five guidelines to steer a crisis management plan for your brand.

Avoid topic fatigue.

In the current COVID-19 crisis, every day brings new updates from virus experts and government officials. On top of that information, none of us can open our news app, turn on the TV, or check our inbox without a constant barrage of COVID-19-related statements from brands.

While many updates in this early phase are necessary and useful, topic fatigue will inevitably set in. Think about how your brand can communicate the most important messages without contributing to topic fatigue.

For example, your team might have much to say about what’s dominating the headlines, but not all of it is relevant to your brand. Resist the temptation to weigh in on too much, and where you do add commentary, keep it relevant to your brand’s purpose and focus.

Ask yourself, “Do my customers need to know anything further about our response to this?” If so, be direct, succinct, and empathetic. And if not, wait until the need to publish is appropriate.

Use downtime to contribute and give back.

Depending on the nature of your business and impact of a given crisis, you may be experiencing a change or slowdown to your normal workflow. This could be the right time to shift your attention to pro bono and volunteer work. What existing pro bono projects can be reactivated or moved up in the queue?

Also consider ways your business might be equipped to help those on the front lines. Can you be useful in some genuine way—and not just for the publicity? There are often more ways to help than we realize. Taking an outward vs. inward focus may reveal some natural opportunities for your team and brand to serve others in your company or community.

Celebrate the good happening around (and within) your audience.

Fred “Mr.” Rogers was famous for saying, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

More than folksy and feel-good, this approach can help guide our content in times of uncertainty. When your audience’s natural inclination is to dwell on the fearful and troubling things, tell the stories of good happening around them.

Your brand platform comes with responsibility. Use it for good.

Resist the temptation to leverage a crisis for gain.

The adage “any press is good press” simply isn’t true. Especially when people perceive that your benevolent brand messaging masks an underlying motivation to grow your market share.

The way people and brands are responding to shortages of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and protective masks due to COVID-19 provide clear examples of how to behave and how not to behave. Brands that attempt to prosper from a crisis will pay a heavy price in the end.

Show what it means to Ring True in hard times.

Every day at DKY we talk about what it means to Ring True in brand management and marketing – both for ourselves, and with our clients. Figuring out what that means for each of us is challenging. Even when everything is going well. But what happens in times of crisis?

Whether you’re talking about brands or people, crisis reveals true character. Rather than shrinking away in fear, stay calm. Take stock of your brand purpose, promise and values. Then act accordingly.

When times are hard, acting and speaking from a place of authenticity won’t steer you wrong. Ring true.

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