Not Responding to a Crisis Can Be Worse Than the Crisis Itself

09 Jul Not Responding to a Crisis Can Be Worse Than the Crisis Itself

No one likes to think that a crisis will happen to their company, but, sooner or later, it probably will. How you weather the storm depends largely on your response to the crisis – and the timeliness of that response.

You see, while customers remember when something goes wrong with a company’s product, those memories tend to be fairly short-lived (provided the problem is fixed). It could be a faulty piece of software that causes a network problem, or the airbags on your car being recalled. While these issues may be annoying, those annoyances are generally here one day, gone the next.

However, when a company refuses to acknowledge the issue, or keep customers informed of what’s going on — that’s when the bumpy ride turns into something a lot more threatening to a company’s relationships with its customers.

This is why rapid communications, particularly in times of crisis, is so important.

Look, customers are used to technology failing – hell, half the time they expect it to fail, at least eventually – and they can forgive those failures when they happen. It’s when an organization doesn’t respond to those failures, or keep its customers in the loop, that things get drawn out. And that can cause a serious PR headache for the company involved.

History is littered with examples of slow corporate responses that teach us this very lesson. From Penn State (Jerry Sandusky) to Sea World (the Blackfish documentary), we’ve seen companies get caught flat-footed when a crisis comes their way. At best, they react slowly; at worst, they don’t react at all.

That’s a death knell in today’s social media-driven world, where information can be found – and disinformation can be spread – instantaneously. Yes, companies need to get their response down before going public with it. But that response might be as simple as “we have a problem, we’re investigating it, we’ll let you know as soon as we find out more.”

The point is, it’s often not necessary to go into a lot of detail. Customers do not necessarily need or want that, anyway. It’s often enough to at least let people know that there is a problem, and keep them informed along the way.

Whatever a company does during a crisis, their communications need to be two things: immediate and honest. Getting truthful information out quickly can go a long way to appeasing customers and developing goodwill. Not doing so opens up organizations to criticism and skepticism that can last for days, weeks, or perhaps even years.

At the end of the day, people will forgive a technical hiccup. But forgive a company that hasn’t been responsive? That can take a lot more time than it takes to send out a simple Tweet.


Pete Larmey
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