Statistically, more UK businesses than ever are coming face to face with disruption caused by issues that can impact company reputation and perception. With brand reputation becoming more important than ever before in the United Kingdom, it’s essential that your firm develops a strong crisis management plan.
According to PwC’s Global Crisis and Resilience Survey 2023, which charts how organisations can respond proactively in a state of crisis, resilience is the key when it comes to ensuring minimal disruption.
Business leaders responding to the survey resoundingly agreed on the importance of resilience, with 89% confirming that it’s one of their essential strategic organisational priorities.
The survey also found that 96% of organisations have reported some form of disruption over the past two years with a further 76% claiming the most serious disruption experienced had a medium-to-high impact on operations.
PwC’s survey highlights the frequency in which crisis events can occur, and the importance of brands having an effective response in place should their reputation be tested.
“Whilst it’s easy to think that your UK businesses are unlikely to need to respond to a crisis, it’s important to remember that there are no limits as to what can happen and media interest in an incident can be unpredictable,” explains Hannah Blencowe, PR Executive at Digital Ethos.
“Some examples of a potential crisis to deal with include data breaches, customer complaints, or serious workplace misconduct.”
So, how can UK businesses develop more comprehensive crisis management strategies to preserve their reputation? Let’s explore three essential approaches to ensure that operations are resilient in the face of disruption.
Measuring the Impact of a Business Crisis
When UK businesses crises’ occur, it can bring with it long-lasting adverse effects that are difficult to anticipate in advance. These effects can negatively impact productivity and cash flow, so it’s essential that they’re identified. These impacts can include:
Regardless of the form your crisis takes, whether it’s one that solely affects your UK businesses or are part of a larger global issue, it will often lead to a decrease in revenue. The cause of a loss in revenue could be down to slower productivity, higher periods of downtime, or a negative public perception of your brand.
Acquiring and Retaining Talent
Deeper crises can leave a long-lasting imprint on a brand’s image. Not only does this lead to a loss of custom, but it can also negatively impact employees at the company, who could be ready to leave in certain circumstances. Hiring new talent could also become difficult if a crisis is left unaided.
As well as profits, a crisis can also lead to a rise in UK businesses costs. These costs can emerge from the money you commit to resolving the crisis, whether they be on your PR response, technical repairs, or the transportation of goods.
Loss of Customer Trust
Crucially, a badly handled crisis can negatively impact how customers view your brand. If perceived responsibility falls at your door, like a data breach, faulty goods, or poor customer service, it can lead to a loss of trust that will inhibit your conversion rates.
‘Owning’ Your Crisis
The first action to take when a crisis is emerging is that you should immediately take ownership of the event.
Although not every crisis will be under your direct control, displaying the right attitude in response can work wonders in mitigating its impact. Here, positivity and responsibility are essential to overcoming difficult periods.
By taking accountability, you can embrace challenges and take on corrective measures in a more frictionless manner. This can also help promote a more authentic response, and more consumers have already shown that they respond well to honest branding, with 88% of shoppers claiming that they would want to purchase from brands that promote authenticity.
By owning your crisis, it can help to identify problem areas faster to better prioritise your response. In acknowledging a problem and identifying weaknesses sooner, you can take a more proactive response to preserve your reputation.
Optimise Your PR Response
Your PR response to a crisis will be imperative for maintaining your reputation and ensuring that sentiment towards your company doesn’t decline.
The great thing about your PR responses is that they don’t have to be devoid of humour in all scenarios, and in some cases, they can be an opportunity to strengthen your bond with customers through a positive lighthearted response.
In 2018, a supply chain issue at KFC caused a now infamous nationwide chicken shortage at UK restaurants. However, the company’s crisis response saw the funny side of the story and used ‘why did the chicken cross the road’ puns to lighten the mood.
KFC even launched a website geared towards addressing questions that were recurring on social media about staff pay and how the crisis emerged.
The globally renowned food chain even took out a full-page advertisement in a national newspaper to acknowledge the crisis and address it to a large audience.
While some companies may opt to avoid addressing an emerging crisis through fear of more unwanted attention, KFC utilised social media networks like Twitter as a tool for managing the narrative and spinning it to drive more brand awareness and to showcase a more human side the the company.
“Twitter is very much an engagement platform for us. It’s where we get to have a lot of fun with our followers and push our cheeky tone of voice. It’s actually where our tone of voice was developed and has since been adopted across the rest of our advertising,” a KFC representative explained in a 2019 interview.
When planning a social media response, it’s imperative that you ensure that your digital PR efforts are as discoverable as any negative press. This means that you should prioritise your keyword research.
Using SEO platforms like Ahrefs, we can see how brands can rank effectively for relevant keywords. Taking KFC’s chicken shortage crisis and using it as an example, we can see that Ahrefs offers a series of recommendations for keywords in the form of questions that users are asking on search engines.
By addressing relevant questions or utilising keyword ideas, it’s possible to create discoverable content that can help you address a crisis to your followers and manage customer expectations.
The faster your response, and the way you capture the sentiment of those affected by the crisis, the better you can mitigate the damaging effects of a negative emerging story.
Train Your Staff in Preparation
One of the most effective ways of practising more resilience in the face of a crisis is to train your staff to provide them with stronger HR skills.
Training your managers in HR skills like policy communication, updating staff details, and managing holiday requests can help to smooth out prospective crises before they’ve had a chance to grow.
In addition, these training measures can provide you with a more functional team at your disposal when dealing with an emerging crisis. This allows you to assemble your most skilled staff members who are capable of viewing problems from different perspectives to manage news and your brand’s response.
Look to offer leadership training, HR courses, and more hands-on learning opportunities to staff surrounding factors like logistics, legal and compliance, PMO, and risk management to move more affirmatively in handling emerging issues.
Converting a Crisis into an Opportunity
Although every crisis is different, it’s certainly possible to convert negative news events surrounding your company into a positive opportunity to generate greater exposure, and a positive perception surrounding your brand.
Your primary aim should be to instil resilience into your handling of a crisis. Gauge the response of those closest to your company, and strategise your recovery with minimal disruption.
If your brand’s tone is more lighthearted, it’s certainly possible to replicate KFC’s ownership of its 2018 chicken shortage, but failing to read the room can make a difficult situation worse, and if customers have experienced any form of suffering as a result of your actions, humour will only have a detrimental effect.
There’s no time to waste when it comes to crisis management, and looking to build the skills of your team today will help pave the way for a more comfortable experience tomorrow, should a crisis begin to emerge.