Within 24 hours, two crisis stories broke, with two very different reactions from the key players.
In the first, Canada’s cycling hero Ryder Hesjedal admitted that 10 years ago, he doped.
Next, Toronto mayor, Rob Ford, is once again the focus of a video allegedly showing him smoking crack. Toronto police have a video which they say is “consistent” with what has been reported in the media.
How did Ryder and Rob react?
Ryder posted a long and passionate apology to his family, friends and fans:
I have loved and lived this sport, but more than a decade ago, I chose the wrong path. And even though those mistakes happened more than 10 years ago, and they were short-lived, it does not change the fact that I made them and I have lived with that and been sorry for it ever since.
Rob Ford held a press conference that lasted less than 2 minutes, where he flat out said he has “no reason to resign” and that he could not discuss the video due to the matter being before the courts. He was curt, short and refused to acknowledge that he might kinda be in trouble.
You never want to think something bad will happen to you or your brand, but you have to be prepared. Be proactive and think ahead to “what could possibly go wrong?” Ryder must have had it in the back of his head that one day someone might spill the beans. If the allegations against Rob Ford are true, he should also know that nowadays with cell phones and security cameras, it’s virtually impossible to hide the truth.
Have a crisis plan in place. Who will be the face of your brand during this time? What will be your social media policy? Do employees know what to do if approached by media or angry customers? What is your key message and how will you reach your audience with it?
Think of your crisis plan like an umbrella: you hope you never have to open it, but during that downpour you’re sure happy it’s there.
Because you have your crisis plan in place, you can move quickly. After facts are gathered, react. Post a statement on your website. Link that statement from your social media feeds. Send out a press release. Hold a press conference. The key is to do this fast. During a crisis, a ton of information flies around and your customers are looking for answers. Be the one they get it from.
Rob Ford went on his radio show and apologized, but almost a week following the latest story breaking, and he didn’t explain what he was apologizing for.
During a crisis, you may be faced with a barrage of angry and confused customers. Regardless, you must remain calm. You must present a genuinely concerned and thoughtful response through all your mediums.
Ryder Hesjedal gave a statement that was remorseful and genuine. Rob Ford has continued to act defiant and angry. No, it’s not fun to be the centre of attention in a crisis, but you can’t allow your personal frustration to come through.
When the crisis has passed, you need to evaluate not only what led to the crisis but also your management of the situation. What worked? What didn’t? Change your crisis plan accordingly.
Needless to say, dealing with a crisis for your brand is not what you hope for. However, with some proactive planning, you can turn the “unforeseen” into a well-handled situation, maintaining your brand’s value and customer loyalty.