Every day, social media users are catapulted into stardom. One heartwarming story can become go from mere oblivion to national news in no time at all. Bad news, unfortunately, travels just as quickly. In business, crises happen everyday, and the news spreads fast. That’s why your company needs a crisis communication plan.

The first step, provided you have a structured chain of command, is to learn the facts. Your response hinges on what the crisis is (or was) and how your company is involved. With that context in mind, you can use strategic marketing to quickly move from defense to offense.

But before you can start rebuilding, your customers want to know you truly care. Whether it’s a product failure, natural disaster, or erroneous scandal, issue a statement as soon as you know the facts. If those facts put your company at fault, offer sincere apologies. Then follow up with a commitment to rectify the problem. If your company is not at fault, express remorse. Very rarely is silence the best response. Instead, tailor your reaction to the incident, and let the world know that your company truly cares.

A quick response, says AdWeek, is crucial to crisis communication. But so is continued responsiveness. “Your audience needs to know… the response is ongoing and not limited to your initial reaction.” If the situation is still developing, provide updates. Respond to every sincere comment or question that arises. Ignoring the issue or its victims is a surefire way to turn a minor crisis into a full-blown fiasco.

Take United Airlines, for example. If there’s a hallmark PR crisis of the year, United takes the cake with its forced removal of a passenger last April. But the response was what escalated the issue. For starters, United’s CEO initially apologized for having to “re-accommodate” passengers. Time (and video footage), quickly revealed that the event was much more violent. According to CNN, “It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that Munoz issued a full-throated apology, calling the episode ‘truly horrific.’” By that point, customers were outraged. The damage was done.

Learn from these mistakes. Before a crisis comes your way, have a crisis communication plan in place that prioritizes a quick and honest response. Above all: Be honest, be clear and be compassionate.


Creative Spot is a full-service marketing and advertising agency in Columbus, Ohio. If you would like to learn more about how we can help your organization with crisis communication, please contact us.