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Crisis Communication: What you need to do to douse it for your eCommerce store

Crisis Communication: What you need to do to douse it for your eCommerce store

For an eCommerce or multichannel retail business, crisis communication can be anything that adversely impacts a business or breaks normal business operations. If controlled incorrectly, even small snafus have a serious potential to damage your eCommerce business, especially when they occur or are discussed in the very public forum that is social media. How your company communicates through a crisis may impact the entire organization, combining profitability and viability. Here’s what you need to do to douse it for your eCommerce store.

Crisis communication definition

Crisis communication is how public relations professionals react in order to protect and preserve a brand, individual, or organization from the bad press that endangers their reputation. This communication should be carefully planned before the crisis even occur.

crisis communication

Pre-crisis

Ecommerce businesses should plan for crises, not wait until they happen and then figure out what to do next. Here are the crisis management steps to take in advance:

1.Gather a team

For each of the crisis scenarios, identify a crisis communication team. These are the people who will be ready to act when something negative happens. This team should include:

  • Members of executives: For a major crisis, this leader may be the business’s primary spokesperson. In other circumstances, this person is on board for decision making.
  • Operational leaders or department heads. These are the folks responsible for the affected areas of the business. This might be the person responsible for offline store operations.
  • Communicators. Your company’s marketing and communications group will handle the message.
  • Outside support. Some crises may need outside support. For instance, you may need legal advice.

2. Brainstorm potential crises

You may have already planed this part if crisis communications are combined in your PR plan. If not, collect your identified team and generate a list of all the disasters that could occur. Anything from natural disasters to product malfunctions should be regarded. Think about where your company is vulnerable and how that could be used. This exercise may be uncomfortable but it is necessary.

3. Have monitoring procedures

A team should be monitoring social, print, and digital publications every day to find out any negative message. This may be as simple as subscribing to a social media monitoring service or as complex as building emergency notification systems in each of your company’s departments or locations. Establishing these monitoring procedures in place allows you to know instantly when things hit the fan. They will also help you know where the fires are (which social or traditional channel)

4. Plan crisis messaging

You can use your scenario plans by crafting your company’s crisis messages in advance. You will perhaps not utilize these messages verbatim, but planning what could be said will be necessary

In all of your crisis messaging:

  • Be as transparent and open as is prudent.
  • Take responsibility for your business’s actions.
  • Position your business as a leader and information source.
  • Act fast; initial statements should come within an hour.

5. Identify stakeholders and build support

This should be a continually ongoing process. Your stakeholders are not only clients and investors, but also your employees. Ensure that you are growing a great relationship with stakeholders throughout the year, so when something goes wrong you can count on their help. If you have a great culture filled with happy staff, chances are they won’t speak poorly of the company to clients, friends, family, or social media followers even when the chance occurs. Remember that employees are your wonderful brand ambassadors!

6. Train your team and spokespeople

You’ll need to train your executives and leadership team to undergo media interviews. During that exercise, ask them to respond to discomfort questions or imaginary crises. The executives will be better for in-person communication than others. Only in rare circumstances does the CEO have to be the business spokesperson.

You should also train to any customer-facing staff. Again, if something goes wrong, they may be the ones protecting questions from clients about what occurred. You want them trained with the right language and tone, and not just blowing air or cheat. 

During the crisis

crisis communication

If a crisis happens, don’t so panic, you’ve prepared for this! Now it’s time to put your plans into action and deal with the damage.

1. Assess the situation

This has to be done immediately if you’ve done the above preparation, this will be simple. Thanks to your media monitoring, you’ll know where the worst public response is occurring and what is being said. You can adjust your responses based on that.

Useful tip: Make sure to stop any previously scheduled public correspondence. If a social media post goes out during the crisis and it’s about an unrelated topic, that’s going to look irresponsible

2. Respond quickly

You need to respond as quickly as possible because the silence sometimes may make the public doubtful that you’re wrong or you don’t have things under control. Even though you don’t have all the answers people are looking for. It’s OK to say you don’t have an answer to something. It’s better to say that and follow up later than to spread misinformation,”

Here’s what a response should entail:

  • Remain honest:  Share as much of the story, and your reply to it, with your supporters as you can. Being as honest as you can help show your sincerity and your commitment to fixing the problem. It will also help dismiss fallout in the future because the truth has a way of coming out whether you want it or not. 
  • Promise action: Let your stakeholders understand that you’re already thinking about how to make sure this never occurs again.
  • Obvious Information: Be as obvious as possible about what you know. If you don’t have any updates, confirm and promise that you’re considering the problems. If you look like you’re hiding something, the trust will evaporate. Even if it is bad information that comes to light, share it. If you’re the one sharing it, that gives you an opportunity to stop things from spiraling out of control.

3. Prepare stakeholders

The stakeholders you gathered in your crisis management preparation should now be sent the message you decided in step two. Making sure everyone is on the same page ensures that the message doesn’t change. You can do this by sending out a company-wide email, setting a meeting to discuss the response with customer-facing employees, and giving your investors a phone call. You should also take the time to run through the language with your spokespeople in case the media wants to interview anyone about the crisis

4. Correct misinformation

When you’re in the midst of a crisis, you need to correct misinformation but don’t delete comments. Unless they’re openly nasty, deleting comments can only add fuel to the fire. Your customers will wonder what else you’re covering up. 

5. Write a press release

Your primary response will most likely be over social media or sent out in a brief statement. After you have a handle on the problem, you should make the public conscious that you have made strides toward handling it absolutely and make sure it doesn’t occur again.

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