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HomeNewsFive problems brands come to you to solve: Crisis comms

Five problems brands come to you to solve: Crisis comms

illustration of digital crisis communications

Editor’s note: Over the next few weeks, we will publish a series of articles under the banner: five problems brands come to you to solve. The first article in the series covered customer complaints; this article tackles a related subject: crisis communications.

Email upfront

At the first sign of a crisis, start unpacking your communication strategy. While a resolution may not be imminent, it’s critical to share with customers that the brand is aware of the situation and working tirelessly to find a solution. Sending out an email is a good place to start. It can be used to point customers to a dynamic webpage — such as a blog — to share any issues and frustrations as the crisis unfolds. Bonus? It offers a more streamlined method to keep track of customer engagements than having to sift through a million social media comments. (Brands will still need to monitor those too, however, and respond as appropriate.)

Also, angry email replies are better than angry reviews.

The gold standard for how to respond during a crisis is how Buffer handled a data breach back in 2013.

Buffer created a blog to keep customers up-to-date on developments, and the positive comments demonstrated the company’s transparency was much appreciated:

  • “You folks are awesome in every way, including when the chips are down”
  • “Proof positive that full transparency and openness is the only way to go when situations like this occur”
  • “I upgraded to the awesome plan because of how well Buffer handled this situation”

The company held its position as a leader in social media scheduling and tracking. A number of its customers upgraded their accounts as a direct result of Buffer’s exceptional handling of the situation.


Timing around crisis comms can be tricky. Advise brand clients to be transparent about what is happening, but to also not make announcements until they have their facts straight. Providing accurate information is imperative. Before all the facts are in, it’s best to make a simple statement: “We’re aware of the situation, we’re working quickly to resolve it and we will keep you updated as we learn more.”

Analytics behind

When a crisis communication situation hits, with the right plan in place, it can be a valuable learning experience. This is especially true when it comes to monitoring the brand with hyper vigilante tracking of the crisis’ impact.

Some metrics to consider tracking:

  • How many customers upgraded their accounts because of this? ​
  • How many new customers signed up after this? ​
  • Did share of voice increase vs. competitors? ​
  • What earned media came out of this crisis?

Ideally, a brand will work with the PR team to craft a comprehensive crisis communications plan before anything happens. But a brand may require a plan while the crisis is unfolding, and the comms team needs to be ready to dive right in.

Cision’s Crisis Prevention Kit can help in either situation.


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