In previous posts we introduced and explained the how social strategy enables Brand Resilience and how Resilience incorporated several brand elements including Brand Depth and “Brand Breadth” and in particular how Brand Breadth can be used to enhance Brand Resilience. The theme of these posts is Brand Resilience, and how that aids during a brand crisis – the subject of this third post in the series (the final one is the "How To"). There are two keys to how Brand Breadth helps in a crisis, the first is in pre-engagement - with customers and beyond in social media. The second is in triaging or segmenting the pre-engaged customer base and and the social media presence and working with those segments pro-actively in different ways, with different strategies, to achieve a common goal of restoration of brand trust.
But before we get to those two key activities, it's important to understand how social assets and crisis management are linked, and how the risks and exposures in social can be developed as positive assets to be used in the times of a brand crisis.
Firstly let’s be clear about what we mean by a brand crisis. We don’t mean a flood or a earthquake but rather the type of events which led to Qantas being awarded 3 places in the Top Ten Biggest PR Disasters of the Year (in Australia) - #1 for the grounding of its world-wide fleet at zero notice, #2 for the Qantas Luxury “bashtag” debacle, and #5 for the “golliwog” social media promo. There are a multitude of others and in fact SimplyZesty seems to run a weekly roundup, and the infamous Domino’s YouTube event epitomises the potential brand damage. These are events which are initiated in social media by a company, its employees, or the public.
We’ll just review what Brand Resilience is, and for the fuller definition take a quick look back at Brand Resilience 2 – social strategy and brand breadth.
Brand Resilience is a function of Brand Promise + Brand Experience (Depth & Breadth) + Brand Friction + Brand Stock.
We define Brand Experience as containing two components – Depth and Breadth. A marketing & advertising-led Brand Promise is only PR until it is “operationalised” – which is the Brand Experience. The Promise creates expectations of future value delivery, whereas the Experience is realised value. Where the Brand Experience fails the Brand Promise, or adversely reflects on the Brand or Brand Promise, we usually say that the organisation lacks Brand Depth (examples are given in Part 1).
Brand Depth represents the collective operational touch-points of the Experience. Brand Breadth is a new idea which embraces all the “non-operational” touch-points, and especially social media and the “social presence” of a brand. This concept of Breadth is crucially important today for brands, because it has a significant impact on Brand Resilience. One of the pillars of Breadth is social, but it is not about social media marketing, rather it's about extending the power of social business, as a business strategy, into brand protection.
How a crisis plays out in the media
When such a crisis occurs it develops in a predictable way – as insightfully researched and laid out by Australian PR consultant and author Jane Jordan-Meier in her book, “The Four Highly Effective Stages of Crisis Management: How to manage the media in the digital age”. There are clearly defined, identifiable stages that the media, both old and new, report a crisis:
- Stage 1, where the spotlight is beaming squarely on the incident – the “breaking news” stage where people want to know more about the event itself;
- Stage 2, where the beam broadens from the event to the “victims” and the response – how could this have happened, how is the organisation responding, who is responding, who is the perpetrator? As Jordan-Meier explains it:
This stage is key. This is the make it or break it stage, the reputation forming stage, the stage where the rallying on social media sites, both negative and positive, becomes a focal point. The spotlight, with widening and growing intensity, points at the organization and persons who appear to be at the center of the storm. It will roam around and catch whoever will talk about what’s just happened. Experts start to appear on CNN, victims start talking in-depth about their experiences, and the organization starts to give its side of the story.
- Stage 3, is the blame and finger pointing stage, with the key focus being “why”, and everyone has an opinion. The spotlight has become a floodlight and your crisis is beamed everywhere in every channel by the informed and the uninformed;
- Stage 4, the spotlight begins to dim as you’ve reached the fallout / resolution stage. The caveat being that your “sin” is forever recorded and discoverable – you can’t take it back and a crisis might flare anew again if you slip up.
That’s the predictable pattern, and the good news is that you can prepare for it. The bad news is that it now happens at lightning speed, which means that you need to prepare ahead and to sow some fertile ground - which is one of the key elements in “preparation” and Brand Breadth. We've seen that many brand crises are where social media marketing has backfired - clearly in the case of social media marketing a Crisis Management review stage can easily be incorporated into the planning stage.
Brand Breadth and social presence
Being advocates of social business as a business strategy we’re using "social presence" to mean something in that context, and relatively prosaic. Firstly we mean the assets comprising your visibility, currency, reach and influence in the social media – what we’d call your social architecture. Add into that activity, relevance, content, people, coordination, consistency and you generate a social presence value, which is a core element of Brand Breadth.
In other words you can build a social presence, but to elevate it into social presence value and hence Brand Breadth you have to be able to do something with that social presence relative to your business objectives and relevant business strategy. That means that it is not just "engagement" per se, for the sake of it. And it also means that the internal processes, people and platforms have to be suitable, synced and aligned in order to make use of the social presence value.
The combination of social presence value and the internal social business strategy and processes is the infrastructure of Brand Breadth.
We’re building on these ideas in order to be able to demonstrate how they are used in a brand crisis so bear with us and check the next post.
Expanding the assets you bring to bear in a crisis
Traditionally in a brand crisis you have just your internal organisational assets and capabilities to bring to bear. The manner in which you are able to effectively marshal external assets and resources to assist depends on planning, preparation and practice, and relationships and their strength and value are part of that. Today you need to be able to use social media and social business practices as assets and get beyond the fears and doubts, otherwise they will surface as liabilities, particularly in Stage 2 of a crisis.
Building Brand Breadth requires planning, preparation and practice across the organisation and in developing the social presence, more specifically the social presence value. That's because the latter comes down to people to people connections - and that is not done overnight, and it's not something that you can do without having practiced it in social media.
Think of it this way – a business has customers, and a crisis potentially impacts on Customer Lifetime Value. Typically a firm with a brand crisis will communicate through the old mainstream media, through emails to customers, and by using social as (just) another channel for the same form of communication, the latter possibly tailored to specific issues raised or posted in social media. If things get particularly grim the business might also email its shareholders a soothing story.
Now, in this era of social, customers and shareholders form just two subsets out of a wide spectrum of stakeholders and even “pseudo” stakeholders – the latter being those who hijack any media hyperactivity to promote either the general rage or their own cause (call them professional social media protestors). All these groups need to be dealt with in real-time, transparently and with the knowledge that what’s said to any one group will be spread to all other groups, whereupon any inconsistencies will be amplified yet again. This extended stakeholder community is potentially both an asset and a liability.
Having effective Brand Breadth turns it into a positive asset, and minimizes the liability, which is the whole point of this series of posts.
Regarding your social assets and connections as a positive force in crisis management - and planning for them to support that objective - is an essential step in moving towards Brand Resilience, which in turn utilizes Brand Breadth (Resilience = Brand Promise + Brand Experience (Depth & Breadth) + Brand Friction + Brand Stock, remember). The good news is that if you are on track with a social business strategy then you already have this positive view of social, so your cultural journey is easier. If not, it's a little more of a rocky road.
In the next, and final post, we'll explain in precise detail how to build that Brand Resilience, with references back to the stages of a crisis.
How have you seen brand crisis play out - how consistent with the Four Stage model?
How does your organisation plan, build and monitor it's total social presence value?
Please comment below.
Here's a quick link to "The Four Stages of Highly Effective Crisis Management: How to Manage the Media in the Digital Age" on Amazon.
Quick link to Post #1 How social media enables brand resilience
Quick link to Post #2 Brand Resilience 2 – social strategy and brand breadth