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Brand Crisis Management – It Starts with Preparation

Frank J. Vitale, Chief Marketing Officer, Berdon LLP
Executive Director, Citrin Cooperman Advisors LLC / Berdon Advisors LLC

08.10.21 | Operations Chat

At one time or another, all businesses will face a brand crisis of some kind, and in an age of pandemics and cyberattacks, it is becoming even more common and frequent. How you prepare to meet that crisis is, in many ways, as important as actually resolving the issue or issues that arise. Stepping beyond the belief that such things only happen to “the other guy,” there are logical and methodical steps to take to help the business prepare for what is inevitable. Here are some important steps to take so that when a crisis hits, you are prepared to diffuse the situation and reduce the impact on your brand.

In advance of any brand crisis, select a Crisis Management Team (CMT), which, ideally, should be a small group of your most trusted professionals who have management authority. Each member of the team should have designated responsibilities that they would snap into once the crisis hits. If possible, include your senior marketing/PR professional and legal counsel on the team. From that team, select a spokesperson who is typically a C-suite professional — a CEO or CMO in many instances. This person should be able to think on his or her feet and would also benefit from getting training on how to react and respond to crisis situations.

While issues can come out of left field, it is possible to identify areas where a potential crisis can erupt. Your CMT should work together to identify areas of vulnerability and role-play through potential scenarios. Doing this will help enable you to address developing problems before they arise as well as prepare you to respond appropriately should a crisis occur.

Preparation also means establishing notification systems so that you can reach your CMT and other stakeholders with speed. In today’s breakneck environment, you cannot rely simply on a phone chain. It is wise to have multiple forms of communication – texting, IMs, emails, phone, social media – in place so that the word gets out fast and your CMT can deploy swiftly.

Consistent monitoring is essential to prevent and respond effectively. This is also where your wider team comes in handy. Let it be known throughout the organization that your CMT would like to hear about any negative chatter that is being spread on the web, in news reports, on social media, or elsewhere. A no-cost electronic aide would be Google Alerts or similar platforms. This will help enable the CMT to identify patterns or areas of growing concern and discuss and map out strategy and tactics. As the old proverb says: “forewarned is forearmed.”

While you are still on the brighter side of a crisis, it is an ideal time to prepare what are referred to as holding statements. Essentially, these are canned and prepared statements or templates that can be quickly modified to most crises and issues that develop. They are part of your starter kit so that you can respond quickly and thoughtfully. This is essential in today’s “social” environment as most consumers now expect a quick response, and what counted as a speedy response years ago is considered slow today.

Brand Crisis Management is all about being prepared and nimble enough to respond quickly, clearly, and professionally. While there are many other steps you need to take during the crisis and well beyond, the steps you take now, when the sun is still shining and time is on your side, will go a long way in making the process as pain-free as possible.

Questions? I can be reached at 212.331.7659 | fvitale@berdon.com.

Frank J. Vitale is the Chief Marketing Officer for Berdon and brings more than 20 years of professional services marketing experience to the firm. Frank oversees all department functions and utilizes his expertise in marketing and business development to help build and promote the Berdon brand. He also works with Partners and Senior Managers across all industry and service lines to develop and implement strategic initiatives focused on growing the business.

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