Whether its E. coli infected romaine lettuce, a data breach of customers’ private information, or simply an inappropriate tweet, most businesses will at some point have to deal with some level of a company crisis. It may take some doing, but if you handle yourself correctly from the get-go, your company should make it through OK.
But what comes next? Moving on from a company PR crisis can be awkward and pretty uncomfortable. I won’t sugar coat it, there’s definitely going to be an adjustment period. Like that time growing up right after your friend got over being sick from chicken pox and you wanted to have a sleep over but you were still kinda nervous you could get sick? That kind of period of slight unease and nervousness is natural.
Honestly, the best way to get over a crisis, and the ultimate goal following this kind of incident, is just to try and get back to normal operations. Now, don’t interpret that as trying to ignore what just happened and sweep it under the rug. There’s still much work to be done. Here are a few steps to get your business back to business (pun) following a company crisis.
Learn and grow from the crisis
Look, whatever crisis you’ve been through was rough, whether it was directly your fault or not. Regardless, this is a great time to bring everyone together to take a frank look at what happened, how it happened, how to make sure it never happens again, and what needs to change to ensure that. Remember, a failure is only a failure if you don’t learn anything from it! Re-evaluate your processes or install a new one. Consider looking into implementing new tools to make whatever process previously fell apart less likely to do so again.
Depending on the severity and fallout from the crisis, this may even be a time to completely re-evaluate your company’s values and goals. I stress that it is important to bring everyone on every level of the company food chain in on these kinds of talks. Your employees may have the best perspective on what happened and have the best suggestions on how to improve. This also demonstrates you are committed to making things right and making things better to the people that matter most.
Put new actions into motion
Ok now here is the tricky part: actually putting these words and thoughts into action. It is easy to say “oh yeah we are going to be much more careful and do such and such to make sure this never happens again” and never actually back it up. Show of hands: who has sat through a great big long meeting where lots of ideas get thrown around and then nothing ever comes of it? If you honestly can’t raise your hand I envy you.
All these ideas and suggestions you have walking out of these meetings shouldn’t go to waste. Assign individuals or teams to take charge of following up and making sure action items get done. Set deadlines on when these changes need to be implemented and create a system for making sure they are followed through. You could consider creating individual or department incentives to do so. If significant changes or upgrades are put in the pipeline, consider sending out some press releases and emails to customers to let people know what to expect from you in the future.
Be transparent about it
While you shouldn’t dwell on what happened, one of the worst things you can do is be dismissive of the incident. Be straight with your customers, the media, and anyone else you may have to answer to in the wake of a company crisis. Take full ownership (if it was indeed your fault) and don’t deflect questions or criticism. Share how the incident impacted you internally and outline any changes moving forward so your customers and community know what to expect from you going forward.
Clearing the air is the best way to start putting the crisis in the rear view and get things back to normal, your ultimate goal.
Getting over a company crisis is made so much easier if you have adequately prepared and have a crisis plan in place. Check out our More Than a Few Words with Jennifer Crawford on how to prepare for and handle business when the “you know what” hits the fan.