The Basics of Avoiding a Brand Disaster

By Sherri Ulleg

Protecting and promoting the brand is an essential part of what we do as marketers every day.  What does your response to a crisis say about your brand? When was the last time you really stopped to think about how much of an impact a response to a crisis can change the public’s perception of your work?  Things happen.  They happen when you least expect it.  You can allow those moments to catch you off guard or you can be prepared.  I tend to lean toward preparation!

In 2008, Toyota led the market in production and sales of vehicles worldwide.  Then came the problem with the gas pedals sticking.  “Reliability and Value” were the foundation of their brand.  However, their response to the crisis when people died in accidents resulting from the faulty equipment was the crux of their fall from grace.  Their immediate response was that their cars were “Safe Enough.”  Outrage quickly followed.  To recover, the company apologized and authorized recalls.  Since then, they have been slowly working to recraft and rebuild their tarnished brand.  Their new brand focus, “Moving Forward,” speaks to what the company has been through and the challenges they’ve had with reestablishing their reputation.  So, how do we learn from that in our own handling of crises that arise?

The first step is to understand what a crisis actually is.  Generally, a crisis is any situation where negative perceptions can be cast on the company or organization.  While it is not realistic to prepare for every eventuality, a general plan addressing the steps to take in a crisis will help your marketing team deploy a rapid and effective response.  Your general plan should include:

  1. Team – who are the team members who will be tasked with a role in every crisis?
  2. Notifications – who needs to be notified immediately, how will the notifications be handled and recorded?
  3. Media – who will address the media and what information is needed to do so effectively?
  4. Planning – what will you do to develop a plan to move forward in consideration of the crisis?

Having these four basic pieces in place provides an outline that will help your team quickly develop a plan of action.  In this world of growing technology, news travels faster online than ever before.  Your immediate response to a crisis can have more impact on your organization more quickly than it ever has.  Be prepared!