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Brand crisis management is a set of actions that brands hope they’ll never have to use. However, a solid crisis management strategy is invaluable to every brand, because the world is unpredictable.

Shift Communications compares crisis management to putting out a fire. Fires require heat (the tide of public opinion), fuel (the part of the crisis for which the brand is responsible) and oxygen (the brand’s response to the crisis). Brands that skillfully remove one of those elements can put the fire out.

Here are three brands that have taken brand crisis management seriously and come through with their reputation intact or even improved.

1. Southwest Airlines

In 2018, Southwest Airlines had an in-flight fatality when an engine exploded and tore into the fuselage. Passengers shared phone footage of the incident. Though Southwest is known for its lighthearted approach to air travel, the company immediately set that aside and communicated seriously with passengers and the general public.

In addition to landing the plane safely, the company suspended social media advertising and made extensive efforts to care for the passengers who were stranded in Philadelphia, where the plane made its emergency landing. Headlines about the incident subsequently focused on the heroism of the pilot, and Southwest emerged with its reputation maintained, if not strengthened.

2. Samsung

In 2016, Samsung faced the PR nightmare of products (Galaxy Note 7 phones) that unexpectedly burst into flames. Airlines started prohibiting the phones onboard, making things worse. Ultimately the company recalled over two million phones and halted production of the Galaxy Note 7.

In response to the problem, Samsung hired 700 researchers and created a battery advisory group to get to the bottom of the issue. Ultimately, consumers were willing to give Samsung the benefit of the doubt. Why? The company already had a strong reputation for phones that people loved. A good reputation before a PR problem can influence consumers’ response to an unfortunate situation.

(Download the Complete Guide to Reputation Score and Online Reputation Management to learn more about how to ensure your organization has a good reputation.)

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3. KFC

Running out of fried chicken isn’t on the same scale as in-flight deaths or flaming phones, but it was a PR nightmare for KFC outlets in the UK and Ireland in early 2018. A major road accident near a logistics partner’s warehouse resulted in prolonged delivery delays and unhappy customers.

Person eating fried chicken.

Effective crisis management after a logistics incident temporarily halted product delivery prevented reputation damage to KFC in 2018.

KFC responded immediately, rolling out tongue-in-cheek ads acknowledging the mishap, putting up a webpage where customers could check the status of their local restaurants, and answering social media questions as quickly and transparently as possible. It was a textbook study of how to do brand crisis management right.

The Takeaway

Online reputation management is crucial before, during and after a brand crisis. Samsung showed that consumers give brands the benefit of the doubt when they love their products. Southwest and KFC demonstrated how immediate action and transparency go far in managing reputation during a crisis.

A solid online reputation management strategy creates the best foundation for crisis management, especially when accompanied by excellent crisis management actions.  Download Our Free Online Reputation Management Success Kit to learn more today.

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