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Six examples of excellent crisis management

Six examples of excellent crisis management

Written by Adam Ogden,
Senior PR & Communications Manager at Freshfield

A company’s reaction to a crisis can make or break its reputation in the long term.

Global lockdowns, stock problems, data breaches and major incidents can test the continuity plans of even the most resilient business, and the response to the situation can lay bare a company’s true values.

Showing compassion, humility and honesty can all be a key part of responding in a crisis. Crises are nothing new, they have been happening in some form since the start of time, but quick, creative and appropriate responses have never been more important than they are now.

For some, a well-managed crisis can not only help to weather the storm but can also lead to new opportunities in the future. In no particular order, here are our six chosen examples of excellent crisis management.

KFC: FCK – the perfect response to a chicken shortage

What could be worse than your business being closed? How about being open but running out of your signature product? When Kentucky Fried Chicken ran out of chicken in 2017, the crisis had the potential to lose the company its entire reputation. Fortunately, quick thinking, and a creative apology, let customers know that the company had addressed the issue and turned the negative coverage into an all-time classic campaign.

#SmashAStrawb helps Australian farming industry grow again

When needles were found by consumers in Australian strawberries in 2018, it derailed the country’s entire farming industry. Supermarkets stopped stocking the fruit, while countries around the world started to snub Aussie strawberries – creating thousands of tonnes of food waste and a crisis for farmers around the country.

To restore the country’s faith in the good old strawberry, and help farmers continue to pay the bills, the national growing industry and Australian government promoted the #SmashAStrawb campaign on social media, sharing their favourite strawberry recipes while encouraging people to buying the fruit but to cut them up, not cut them out.

Joe Wicks The Body Coach gets the nation fit during lockdown

While the UK was stuck inside during the coronavirus lockdown, Joe Wicks managed to find his way into everybody’s front room. The Body Coach’s PR team kept a close eye on the moving news agenda and were able to timely offer his high intensity workout programmes free on YouTube every morning just as the schools were closing their doors.

Parents, desperate for a way to occupy their loved ones for an hour, and conscious of their own physical activity, regularly tuned in to take part. With millions watching every morning, and with all the profits being donated to the NHS, he cemented his family friendly brand and received media coverage and new customers around the world.

Greggs and others encourage us to cook our favourite takeaways

The North’s favourite bakery never fails when it comes to PR campaigns. While people were unable to get their fix of pies, pastries and doughnuts during the coronavirus lockdown, the company sprung to the rescue, releasing the recipes to classics such as their sausage and cheese melt for people to make at home.

Knowing that nobody would be able to nail the bakes in their own home, they drove up demand for the real product so much that they had to delay opening their shops because of the expected rush. Honourable mentions here also go to McDonalds, Wagamamas and IKEA, who also released a range of DIY fast food.

Alton Towers shows compassion in the face of tragedy

A major incident in the workplace is a company’s worst nightmare. In 2015, five visitors to Alton Towers theme park were seriously injured on a roller coaster, leaving the park’s owner Merlin Entertainments open to unprecedented criticism and facing a serious health and safety fine.

Despite a large legal case hanging over CEO Nick Varney’s head, he agreed to a live interview where he came across as honest and compassionate, apologising profusely for the incident and putting the victims’ welfare at the heart of his responses. The damage had already been done, but his empathetic interview helped to minimise the impact. The company continued to be open about its safety record and were able to re-open soon after.

British Airways admits mea culpa in data breach

Holding your hands up and accepting responsibility can be a difficult approach to take, as it makes the company legally responsible for any damages. However, when the situation requires, it is the correct response. When British Airways lost the data of thousands of customers, including credit card details, they were looking at a colossal fine and a huge damage limitation exercise.

Rather than hiding away and making excuses, they speedily enacted their crisis communications plan, informing all customers who were affected, taking responsibility and apologising. Clear and compassionate interviews and communications from the Chief Executive helped the company’s reputation survive, while the quick communication with clients could well have saved BA millions of pounds.

What can we learn from these examples? Despite the scenarios and crises varying in nature, each successful approach has a similar theme to it – honesty. When your backs are against the wall, the worst approach is to attempt a cover up – it normally does nothing more than create bigger problems down the line. Responding in an open, transparent and human centred way should always play a key role in your crisis response.

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