Director of Reputation Research

Seemingly every month a major company gets embroiled in some form of scandal or another which threatens its public perception, reputational standing, and stock market value.

Whether it is financial irregularities, a person in a senior position becoming embroiled in legal troubles, or the recall of a faulty product, handling the situation in the wrong way can see a problem become a full-blown crisis.

Yet while much is made of how the public reacts, less is known about the views of business in this important commercial area. We spoke to figures in the corporate world to find out how they would want organisations they work with to respond if things went wrong.

Crisis Communications whitepaper

Provide information as soon as possible

Partners want information as soon as possible and do not want to be finding out about issues in the morning press.

It is seen as unacceptable for businesses to sit on information that could negatively impact their partners. Instead the companies we spoke to said that if an organisation they had dealings with was in trouble they would be open to any internal investigations being completed first but they would then want a heads up about the outcome well before anything might end up in the media. The view is that knowing things early can also buy more time to ensure the most positive outcome is achieved.

"It’s always good to talk early and explain the situation, either face to face or in a call, because the earlier you can try and catch a problem and sit down and discuss, the easier it is to find a solution rather than get to a serious point where you have to take drastic action."

Sales director, motor finance

Act responsibly and accept responsibility

It is clear from our discussion with partners that they don’t want to simply be told that there is a problem. Being unspecific will only lead to them asking more questions and getting concerned.

Instead, they want the company in crisis to accept responsibility, accurately assess the size of the issue and state what steps are being taken to deal with it.

The size issue is really down to knowing if it is a one-off problem or something more systemic. When it comes to the steps being taken, information should go beyond just stating that an internal investigation has been set up. Instead, the organisation suffering the crisis should set out what tangible steps are being taken to prevent further problems – such as outlining new controls that have been put in place.

"If it’s a one-off and they don’t often make mistakes, or they don’t often communicate poorly with us, then, you know, these things happen.  We’re not expecting perfection."

Head of business development, financial brokerage

Image from PA

Crisis Communications whitepaper

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