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Effective Crisis Communication Strategies for Businesses in India's Digital Age

In the words of Benjamin Franklin ─ It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it. Thanks to the internet ─ there has been a radical transformation in the way businesses communicate with their audience. In today’s digital age, information spreads rapidly, and reputations that takes years to build are wrecked in a matter of seconds. 


Organisations are therefore exposed to crisis situations in ways that they never even deemed possible. Whether it is saying the wrong thing on social media, associating with a less-than-apt brand ambassador, being called out for controversial internal practices or just being on the receiving end of circumstances they have no control over – Effective crisis communication is not just a good-to-have. It’s a must-have to save a company’s market credibility and build customer trust.


Let’s look at some insights and best practices that can help businesses and PR professionals navigate through turbulent times.


Developing Comprehensive Crisis Communication Plans


Creating a comprehensive crisis communication plan is the first step in effective crisis management. The crux of the plan should be to identify, respond to and mitigate crises. An experienced crisis management team with clearly defined roles and responsibilities is the next step. PR professionals need to master the art of crisis management,  thereby charting out and following a well-defined communication protocol to deliver swift and synchronized responses.


For instance, when a delivery partner working with Zomato tragically lost his life in a road accident, the company released a prompt response through an online, public statement by the CEO, Deepinder Goyal. Instead of remaining silent or distancing themselves from the situation, they offered financial support to the bereaved family, and consequently took some responsibility for the reparations. While this unfortunate incident did raise several other questions and concerns on how delivery executives and similar gig workers are paid, Zomato as a brand maintained a compassionate stance on the issue at hand.


Early Detection and Monitoring of Threats


Early detection of a crisis is of paramount importance. Businesses have an ace up their sleeve if they invest in smart monitoring tools that track social media trends, news mentions, online forums, and customer feedback in real-time. This proactiveness helps in identifying simmering issues before they turn into a full-blown crisis. 


However, preemptive action may not always be possible, and that’s where a quick response after turbulence strikes becomes important. Take the example of the Maggi noodles crisis in 2015 that was a major public relations fiasco for Nestle India. The entire approach from the company is a perfect illustration of the ups and downs faced by a business when consequences are underestimated. From the initial denial to the massive country-wide product recall, and finally onto a comprehensive strategy to reintroduce the product – this incident is a case study in learning crisis management. 


Clarity, Authenticity, and Empathy


These are the three cornerstones of an effective crisis communication strategy. Stakeholders demand honest and clear information when a crisis occurs. Downplaying the situation can mar public trust and lead to outrage. By being clear, authentic, and empathetic in their communications, PR professionals can build stakeholder trust and help salvage the business's reputation.


There will always be questions on whether an organization is merely virtue signalling or maintaining a certain public image in its attempt to be empathetic, which is why authenticity and action matter so much. This also underlines the importance of regular training for PR professionals and crisis management teams so they are able to take the best possible steps in a given situation.


Multi-channel Communication


In today’s digital times, if a business needs to reach a wider audience, social media is the way to go. By adopting a smart mix of traditional media, social media platforms, emails, and direct communication channels, broadcasting of crisis information can be done effectively and faster.


Ultimately, the emphasis must lie on being prepared, responsive and empathetic. Any perusal of popular crisis management case studies also highlights the fact that it cannot take a cookie-cutter approach. While a plan is necessary, consistent training and sensitization helps PR teams navigate unforeseen circumstances before they become too overwhelming to handle.

 

Psst! This blog was made with 💕 and created after some thought by a real person.

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