Brand In Crisis: Are You on Offense or Defense?

You’ve heard the age-old phrase, “The best defense is a good offense.” Cliché? Yes. Still true? Absolutely. Armies and sports teams know the truth in this strategy. Smart business leaders put it to work too. A good offense is the best way to protect a brand from crisis, whether it is a product recall, a bomb threat, a technology mishap, the retirement of a longtime CEO or a nasty blog post.

The question is, are you playing offense or defense? Are you ready for a crisis?

It can be difficult to answer that question, so let’s take a look at what a Brand on Defense looks like vs. a Brand on Offense.

You want to avoid the trap of a Brand on Defense. This company is reactive, not proactive. There’s no plan for when the most likely problems arise, no messages prepared and no one ready to say them. This organization’s leadership is caught off guard when crisis strikes, fumbles around trying to figure out how to respond, and runs, both literally and figuratively, from those who want and need answers. They don’t respond to media, or they act like they don’t understand what the big deal is. Reporters create their stories without them, and the public fills in the gaps for themselves.

A Brand on Defense turns a temporary crisis into a permanent liability. Everyone remembers not just the crisis, but just how poorly they handled it. Think Paula Deen. Think the BP oil spill. Think Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

A lot of brands are lulled into thinking a crisis won’t strike them. However, it’s really not a question of IF your brand will be faced with a crisis. The question is, WHEN?

Resilient brands know the best defense is a good offense. Brands on Offense anticipate. They plan. They train. Then, when crisis strikes, they spring into action.

How do you know if you are a Brand on Offense? You must be able to answer “yes” to these questions.

  • Do you know what three high-stakes events may impact your brand in the next 18 months?
  • Can your CEO and other spokespeople communicate with openness and sensitivity?
  • Do you have tools in place, such as key messages for various scenarios, a crisis team roster, an updated contact list and a dark web site?
  • Can you name the members of your organization’s crisis team, and do they all know they’re on it and what their responsibilities are?
  • Do you know the best way to reach your key audiences, such as customers and vendors, during a crisis situation? Do you have contact information for all of your vendors, customers, members, etc.?
  • When crisis strikes, can you respond quickly, with your legal team’s sign-off, within 3 hours?

Being a Brand on Offense takes work. It means doing the heavy lifting of preparation. It means dealing with uncomfortable issues head-on. The benefits, however, are enormous compared to the costs of inaction. Whether you choose Offense or Defense will have massive implications for your future sales, shareholder value and your organization’s brand reputation.

If your brand gets damaged or destroyed, you can’t just go buy a new one. So go on the offensive to protect it.

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About Our Insights

Brands are both valuable and vulnerable, so smart leaders work hard to protect them. This blog is a go-to resource for ideas, approaches and the latest news on safeguarding and increasing the value of your company’s most important asset. Subscribe below to get regular updates on what we’re posting.
Becky Powell-Schwartz, Founder & CEO