Editor's note: Rex Repass is president of Research America Inc. Michael Lieberman is founder and president of Multivariate Solutions, a statistical consulting firm.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Glass, china and reputation are easily cracked and never well mended.” In a global economy, 24/7 news cycle and ubiquitous social media culture, reputations in the 21st century are just as fragile.
The corporations, brands and people that recover from fractured reputations are those that recognize the importance of transparency and getting in front of the narrative when a crisis occurs.
Every crisis is different, from Merck’s drug Vioxx, Toyota’s faulty gas pedal or Chipotle’s E. coli outbreaks to online data breaches and celebrity faux pas. Some crises that impact a reputation do not begin as evident brand bloopers or celebrity scandals. Examples include the Pepsi Kendall Jenner ad. Or when KFC ran out of chicken in the U.K. Or the February 2017 online post from Bradley Reid asking why his wife Nanette had been fired from the Cracker Barrel job she’d held for 11 years. (It wasn’t long before the hashtag #JusticeforBradsWife began trending.)
Many brands hit bumps and have public relations nightmares but quick, transparent and insightful crisis communication research can lead to a faster and more holistic recovery than trying to hide, defend or ignore the situation at hand. Effective crisis management requires a multi-tiered response. In this article, we will focus on the research aspect of a crisis management response, stopping short of media strategy and follow-up investigations.
A crisis breaks and the call comes from the client or the client’s legal counsel to a consulting firm and research team. The first thing to do is to field a study immediately, preferably before the crisis permeates the media. This study should establish top brand equities, what we like to call “brand love.”