Close up of a screen and smart phone, both with articles on the screens about the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak

Crisis Management During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Crisis Management During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The goodwill of a business is an asset. However, it makes it a vulnerable asset. It is a very thin line, which once crossed can take years to rebuild. What matters the most in the long run, is how a company stands back up after falling. This is where Crisis Management comes into the picture.

Close up of a screen and smart phone, both with articles on the screens about the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak

A crisis can occur without notice. Thus, it becomes crucial for business owners to have a Crisis Management Plan in place to reverse the effects within a short time-span. Having a plan instills a sense of trust amongst stakeholders and can help tackle negative press.

It can help to increase productivity of employees during and after crisis, as everyone will know their roles and responsibilities well in advance.

Formulating a plan is not a difficult task, but following the plan can be challenging.

Here are four steps to creating a crisis management plan:

  1. Identify the possible crises and their impact on business
  2. Consider the solutions to tackle each situation
  3. Have a trained crisis management team (CMT) in place
  4. Reassess and update plans regularly

In times of crisis it easier than ever to spread negative PR, thanks to the ever-increasing usage of social media. Getting your side of the story to your audience and stakeholders is crucial. Failure to respond to comments often translates as “guilty.” Failure to respond in the correct way is also very damaging.  The spokesperson for the brand should be confident, compassionate and calm while responding to the press and media. Their goal should be to offer facts, while reassuring the stakeholders that they are of utmost priority to the company. The message is dependent on the type of crisis. It is advisable to speak in a human way and avoid corporate statements, which will be seen as cold, distant and uncompassionate.

Close up of hands holding a smart phone, the screen of the phone showing the menu for the Twitter app.
A billboard with the KFC logo

There are several businesses, which have handled their social media crisis gracefully. In 2018, KFC was forced to shut down around 900 of its stores in the UK due to shortage of chicken. This was ironical coming from a chain famous for its chicken. They lost a percentage of their sales to their competitors, and were also heavily trolled on social media. To curb this crisis, they ran a hilarious apology advertisement owning up to their mistake. They used humour to acknowledge the issue, without blaming the delivery company who was the actual cause of the problem. This move marked an excellent response to a PR crisis and was highly appreciated by all their stakeholders.

In more recent news, we can see examples of best practice on social media, as well as examining brands which have not quite hit the mark.

Mazda recently came under fire for their response to the virus’s spread within the United States. The car manufacture released a 30 second clip with an overall message of safety and following government guidelines. What they did, however, was fill the clip entirely with promo shots of their new car range, leading social media users to respond negatively. Backlash in the form of sarcastic comments flooded the brands YouTube channel, with users saying things like, “Give us your money and we’ll get you through this. I am fed up with all this fear mongering,” and “Exploiting a pandemic to push your cars? Mazda, guys are a joke”. We see here visual messaging as well as tone were not received as intended. 

Close up of a red car with silver plating that reads: Mazoa-3
Someone sitting on a grass with a red, blue and white print bag, and a Pret takeaway cup with sunglasses on top sitting in the grass before the person

 Thankfully, not all attempts at communicating during this crisis have been as badly received as the case above, as seen by examining popular coffee shop chain Pret-a-Manger’s response to the crisis.  As the pandemic developed, Pret’s communication was always honest, genuine and at heart; human.  At the start of the pandemic, Pret focussed on campaigns offering discounted drinks for essential workers, which then quickly moved on to the company giving away all of their surplus food as the lockdowns escalated. Currently, 3 weeks into the lockdown, Pret are sharing information about how to make their own recipes at home (for their customers cravings) and re-enforcing their messaging with posts centred around hope and support.  During the crisis, Pret have always acknowledged the challenges that their customers are facing and provided ways to make their lives easier.

LSPR offers a selection of practical crisis and risk management courses to help you build your crisis-planning abilities. Our 1 Day “Planning your Crisis Communication” provides first-hand practical experience on how to handle your crisis communications and protect your brand’s reputation. The course will train you on how to prepare your media crisis communication during a crisis, as well as how to formulate a crisis management plan.

We are currently experiencing a global health and economic crisis. If you want to be one-step ahead post the lockdown, utilising this time to get yourself prepared and trained is a worthwhile investment in readiness for further eventualities that may impact your brand’s reputation and survival.

More information: Planning your Crisis Communication


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