February 11, 2013 1.29 pm This story is over 112 months old

Horesemeat and HMV layoffs: Marketing your way out of a crisis

In a pickle: From the horsemeat scandal, to disgruntled HMV staff taking to Twitter to criticise the company, crisis communications is something you need to be prepared for.

From the widespread backlash from the horsemeat scandal, to disgruntled HMV staff taking to Twitter to criticise the company, crisis communications seems to be commonplace for many brands at the moment.

On a local level, with Scunthorpe being named least romantic place in the UK to Mouchel’s contracts with Lincolnshire County Council coming to an end, managing crises, or even change to your business, and still coming out with your brand’s reputation intact is crucial.

Risky business

If you fail to plan, plan to fail. Identifying and assessing the key areas where your business is most at risk should be an important part of your marketing strategy. By recognising areas in your business that may cause a crisis, and planning for grey sky situations, you can prevent or at least prepare for problems arising.

Prevention is better than cure

Averting a crisis before it happens is an advantage for any business. Remember to set realistic goals for your clients and your staff and manage their expectations. Promising more than you can deliver can lead to you landing in hot water with your customers, but if something does go wrong, being honest and communicating regularly is vital.

Get social

Make sure you review staff morale on a regular basis. Employees taking to social media to complain about their workplace is becoming more and more common. Ensure you have a stringent social media policy in place, which outlines what your employees can and can’t say on social media platforms about the company.

Be prepared for grey skies

If something bad does happen, be prepared to address it head on. Reacting quickly and providing suitable information is the best way to deal with any negative publicity.

Keep an eye on competitors, how do they handle crises and how are specific actions received by customers and staff.

Communication is key

Saying the wrong thing is bad, but saying nothing can be much worse. Make sure your team is briefed on what information can be released. Giving one person or organisation, such as your marketing agency, the responsibility of handling enquiries from the public or the media will ensure that messages won’t be misconstrued.

Positive proactive promotion

Don’t just comment when things go wrong! Take the opportunity to shout about all the good things your business is doing. Ensure you have a PR plan in place for the year so you can keep your current clients and potential customers up to date with your news, achievements and company milestones. Not only will this let people know about all the positives but it will also help to soften the blow if a crises does occur.

Learn from your mistakes

After the dust has cleared, take heed from what has happened. Look at what you did right and what you could have done more successfully to prevent the crisis in the first place. Could your handling of the incident have been better?

Following these steps won’t necessarily stop bad things from happening, but by having a plan in place, addressing your problems early, briefing your staff and keeping your customers in the loop, you can help your business to weather the stormiest times.

Stephanie Tod is the PR manager at Lava, an award-winning marketing agency in Lincoln.