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Communicate in a Crisis

Understand, Engage and Influence Consumer Behaviour to Maximize Brand Trust

By Kate Hartley
15-minute read
Audio available
Communicate in a Crisis by Kate Hartley

Communicate in a Crisis (2019) explores how brands can communicate sensitively and effectively in a crisis. Author Kate Hartley explains why consumers connect so intimately with brands, and why social media is a threat to businesses. She also offers valuable advice for how to execute a crisis communication plan.

  • PR and marketing professionals 
  • Businesses recovering from a crisis
  • Leaders seeking to develop crisis management skills

Kate Hartley has over 25 years’ experience working in PR, reputation management, and crisis communications. She is the cofounder of Polpeo, an organization that trains brands on how to manage crises that play out online. 

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Communicate in a Crisis

Understand, Engage and Influence Consumer Behaviour to Maximize Brand Trust

By Kate Hartley
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Communicate in a Crisis by Kate Hartley
Synopsis

Communicate in a Crisis (2019) explores how brands can communicate sensitively and effectively in a crisis. Author Kate Hartley explains why consumers connect so intimately with brands, and why social media is a threat to businesses. She also offers valuable advice for how to execute a crisis communication plan.

Key idea 1 of 9

Consumers build close relationships with brands that are authentic and transparent.

Let’s begin with the story of an unhappy customer. 

Ashley is an environmental campaigner from Florida. A few years ago, Ashley needed to buy a new car – but it couldn’t be just any car. If she was going to drive at all, it could only be with a sustainable vehicle. So she opted for a Volkswagen. The company had a reputation for being environmentally friendly. What could go wrong?

Ashley was happy with her purchase until news broke of a scandal. Volkswagen had lied about the amount of carbon dioxide its vehicles released into the atmosphere. The actual number was far higher than the company had originally declared.

Ashley felt betrayed: the brand she had championed had broken her trust. So she retaliated on social media, writing posts about how let down she felt. 

Here’s the key message: Consumers build close relationships with brands that are authentic and transparent.

In today’s world, consumers connect with brands on an intimate level. When we like a brand, we enter into an emotional relationship with them. We give them our loyalty, and we expect their loyalty in return. 

These are called passion brands – ones that, for some reason or another, just get us. Once these brands have us hooked, we’re with them for life. If you tried persuading a Mac user to switch to a PC, for example, you probably wouldn’t be that successful. 

This is because brands are part of our social identity. They make us feel smart or fashionable, or maybe they reflect something we’re passionate about, like the environment. Think about why you bought your favorite pair of sneakers: you’re likely a fan of the brand’s ethos, and you like the feeling of being associated with a cool product. 

The problem is, brands we support can also let us down. A good example of this is Facebook – a platform many of us rely on to protect our private conversations, memories, and photos. 

In 2018, the social media giant broke the trust of its users when it shared their personal data with Cambridge Analytica – without permission. Unsurprisingly, users were outraged. In fact, a 2018 poll by Axios and SurveyMonkey revealed that one in five people in the UK deleted their account immediately after the scandal. 

Every brand will experience a crisis at some point– and when they do, they’ll need to know how to respond. We’ll take a look at this in the following blinks.

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