Whether a natural disaster, global pandemic, or data breach, business crises can and do happen. Organisations may not be able to prevent crises, but what they can do is ensure they’re prepared to emerge strong and healthy on the other side.
A Shifting Focus
During a crisis, it’s natural for businesses to focus on the loss of sales, reputational damage and increased expenses, as these can have a significant impact on both day-to-day operations and the bottom line. However, these are aspects that are largely outside of an organisation’s control. The impact on processes is potentially something that the organisation itself simply can’t mitigate right away due to external forces, so at times of crisis it is often much more effective to instead focus on the customer and things that can be managed.
Brand health relies on two distinct aspects: provision of goods/services, and reputation. If brands find that they are unable to provide goods and services under crisis, or if there is no demand, they can still maintain a strong brand image by boosting their reputation. A good reputation is key to making a strong comeback once the crisis is under control.
By taking appropriate action, keeping customers informed, and demonstrating a commitment to both customers and the ongoing health, safety, and wellbeing of staff members, it is possible to manage any brand effectively through challenging times.
While a crisis management plan will look different for every organisation, there are a number of strategic aspects that should be included to successfully navigate the difficult period:
Developing a plan of action which outlines the measures needed to maintain a strong brand under crisis is an essential starting point. This may include drafting communications to investors, staff, and customers, and delivering training for key personnel to ensure role responsibilities are clear and defined.
Businesses should be prepared to not only hear their customers talking, but actually listen to what they’re saying. Brand health should be monitored closely during times of crises to understand what customers want. This can help to shape a strategic move forward.
Assess & Inform
Using data collected from monitoring activities, businesses can make a decision on how they will approach the crisis. Competitor analysis can also be used to determine what others in the industry are doing. It is vital to communicate this approach with customers.
During times of crisis, customers actively look towards their favourite brands to see how they are managing events. Some will have questions about the actions and behaviour of the business, along with concerns about how the disruption may affect them and the provision of products or services. Rapid responses are key to resolving these concerns.
Evaluate & Learn
Once again, it is essential that brands listen to their customers and analyse brand perception. This can help organisations to evaluate their plans and make adjustments as necessary, and provides a learning opportunity to help streamline future plans.
The Good and the Bad: Examples
Throughout the Covid-19 outbreak, a number of brand management ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ have emerged. Of the big companies, NCP’s free parking for NHS staff and other key workers gained them a great deal of support, while Wetherspoons’ refusal to pay staff despite promises of Government assistance resulted in the #BoycottSpoons hashtag.
Of the smaller SMEs affected by the pandemic, some retailers have been named and shamed for profiteering by raising prices of essential items such as PPE and hand sanitiser. Others, however, succeeded in generating larger and more loyal customer bases. Independent brewery BrewDog shifted its operations to manufacturing sanitiser during a worldwide shortage, while startup travel platform TravelPerk moved sales support staff over to their customer care team to increase levels of satisfaction and keep customers happy during the crisis.
Taking a Proactive Approach
"Businesses aren’t always able to proactively prevent crises, but they can provide themselves with peace of mind that they are prepared to manage their brand effectively and take proactive rather than reactive measures", Rodolphe Soulard, Team leader at Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). Beyond just surviving, it is possible to emerge strong and healthy when the disruption passes with the assistance of a strategic, measured crisis management plan.
If your business is struggling in this current Covid-19 crisis, please get in touch with our team of advisers as we offer advice and support to all North West businesses, Co-funded by Innovate UK and the European Commission, EEN supports SMEs to develop and commercialise new solutions for the International market and access R&D financing.