A crisis, by its very nature, is usually unexpected — very few individuals or organizations would knowingly put themselves in a position of threat after all. But whilst it may be difficult to anticipate, it is perhaps possible to prepare for a crisis, to help mitigate the negative repercussions.
So what role does brand play in facilitating this preparation?
In my previous Brandingmag article, I outlined the 3Ps that form the bedrock of brand, and arguably organizational cultures on the whole. The belief is that a strong sense of team purpose, mutually-respected principles which guide how a business is run, and a personality which defines how a company is known, can prove the difference between a firm that survives and one that doesn’t.
And this rings true when thinking about the role of brand in a crisis too.
It’s admittedly an over-quoted example, but when Steve Jobs passed away, Apple’s ethos did not disintegrate, as the brand had never been solely a one-man vision. Core values were deeply embedded and the business carried on. Not all organizations — particularly those with strong leaders — would have fared the same in the wake of such a loss.
When a far lesser-known client in the education sector encountered a financial crisis, they didn’t invoke knee-jerk reactions in response. Instead, they had the strength internally to take a step back, evaluate their next actions as a team, and make considered decisions that boosted their commercial position by leveraging their marketplace differential — the talent and loyalty of their staff. They turned a challenge into an opportunity to energize staff and further boost performance when the college needed an ‘edge’ more than ever.
In truth, a business may encounter so many types of crises — from being new market entrants to the sudden absence of the owner, the loss of a key client, an on-site incident or the outbreak of an illness. But with prior planning, the 3Ps of the brand can help to establish a shared sense of ‘in-it-togetherness’ — camaraderie underpinned by direction and a true dynamic that is difficult to rock. The brand is the unwritten crisis management plan guiding how to behave, who to confide in, and what it is OK to feel.
Some will consider this nothing but a corny viewpoint, yet organizations that proactively seek to empower colleagues should the worst happen — rather than just paying lip-service to brand conversations — are usually more resilient when the unexpected occurs. Some teams may even be able to avert certain crises before they arise.
A nimble organization embracing innovation, for instance, may be more in tune with the advances of competitors and therefore the need to remain focused on the evolution of their own product or service. A company with fulfilled employees who own and take pride in their roles may have an inherently more alert workforce, better equipped to protect the company from a cyber infiltration. A people-first business that truly cares about mental wellness may spot the signs of ill health before they become unmanageable.
Much comes down to culture of course, which is often the case with the brand debate. Those immersed in the profession know the brand is far more than the visual identity of a business — it is the lifeblood. And that lifeblood could prove crucial when organizations need it the most.
Image source: Alexandr Bormotin