How to protect your reputation

22 July 2019

Your guide in the first hours of a crisis

We are pleased that Kekst CNC, a preferred crisis communications partner with the Reputation Protect PLUS, has contributed the following blog to examine how to manage crisis management risks.

When a crisis hits and attracts media scrutiny, every hour counts. Taking the right steps immediately can make all the difference to how heavily the crisis ultimately affects your company’s reputation. Here are three steps to consider:

1. Timely statement

A defining characteristic of a crisis is the speed at which it escalates, and the pressure you will be under to provide a public comment within a short timeframe. 

If the issue is already public, interest mounts quickly – your social media channels may be jammed with queries, your press office phone won’t stop ringing, not to mention questions from investors, employees, or regulators. 

In some situations, the story will write itself with or without your comment. Most situations will require a short holding statement. Whether you need to be proactive will be determined by the situation, but it is vital that you show you are committed to resolving the issue at hand. A good statement will also buy you enough breathing space to activate internal and external teams and to investigate the details of the situation. This takes us to the next point. 

2. Put in place the right processes

To deal with the pressure of an escalating crisis, it is important to assign roles and responsibilities and put in place processes to ensure you can manage the situation, including: 

  • Confirm roles for your crisis team: Who gathers intelligence, who is able to support on technical issues, who informs the relevant stakeholders, and who speaks to media?
  • Establish points of contact: Create a dedicated email address/hotline for enquiries, and ensure your crisis team is able to communicate quickly and efficiently. Ensure this is staffed in shifts as required. 
  • Log enquiries: Note how many enquiries are coming in from different stakeholders, note down deadlines and share numbers and any new developments with your team. 

Effective crisis management starts before an issue even arises, so ideally these processes will already be in place as part of your crisis plan. 

3. Response Plan

Crisis communicators often talk about the “three Cs” of responding to a reputational issue. As far as possible, it’s vital to show you are in control of the situation, express concern, and demonstrate your commitment to remedying the issue.

For example, if dealing with a product fault, you will need to articulate that you’re aware of the issue, are taking it seriously; are sorry for any inconvenience caused and/or share customer concerns, and that you are taking action. 

But words alone aren’t enough – they must be matched with action. Try to provide an update, with tangible examples, on what you are doing to deal with the issue. Of course, decisions like this need to be taken in close collaboration with legal and commercial teams, but you must balance the cost of any operational decisions with the potential for a crisis to affect your reputation for months or even years to come. 

For some companies, well-rehearsed crisis plans and expert in-house communicators will address these points. For others, taking advice from experts is the best option, particularly if it is available via an insurance product that specifically caters for reputation. Marsh JLT Specialty and Allianz recognised this need and developed a corporate reputation insurance product, providing coverage against the loss of net operating profits from a crisis combined with a comprehensive crisis response service. If a crisis hits, it provides 24/7 access to leading crisis communication consultants, including Kekst CNC. 

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Marsh JLT Specialty is a trading name of JLT Specialty Limited.