It’s no fire drill when a company makes a mistake or has a product problem. Problems can destroy brand equity in days that took years to build. Today companies face even more pressure with instant video and instant video sharing and mass media outlets that run 24 hours a day. A company’s PR office must be ready to act decisively, the important of promptness cannot be undervalued.
Learning from the misfortunes of other companies is a great way to learn. David Liss wrote in an article on Brand Channel in 2002 that crisis management unfolds in six parts and I think these parts encompass the keys to maintaining brand equity:
1 Corporate strategy that creates goodwill and credibility.
2. Imagine the worst and develop strategies to minimize the threats.
3. Build a crisis management strategy.
4. Respond to a crisis based on a predetermined blueprint.
5. Do not respond spontaneously without a developed game plan.
6. Use time as your ally to restore the brand.
These steps involve a lot of preparation and time spent envisioning all potential issues which include employee issues, product, terrorism, weather, disaster, etc. One the preparation is complete everyone in the organizational structure must buy into the plan or it will unravel and appear disingenuous. Follow these steps and your brand can recover quicker and retain more brand equity in most cases.
A brands position in the marketplace must also be considered. Take Apple as a case study. They hold a unique dominant position with majority market share with tech products like mp3 players and smart phones. In the last year Apple has had a major product issue with their iPhone 4 antenna and a consumer privacy issue with their disclosure of tracking systems on their phones. In both cases Apple managed to kill the majority of the press coverage by remaining silent until they could offer a thorough explanation and announce a solution at the same time. Many times companies come out and offer partial information not knowing the extent of the problem and then have to continue to retract and update as more accurate information is found. Apple carefully avoids this with periods of silence as long as 22 days until they have not only the facts but a solution.
The moral of the story; you cannot copy another companies plan. Each brand is unique in the market place and the 6 steps must be evaluated for individual brands.