Crisis communication for sustainable companies

By Fodhla O'Connell-Grennell

When a crisis hits, there is one main task a company should have previously prepared to help lessen the negative impacts of an unexpected event. A business must be proactive and prepare plans to handle any crisis to avoid damage to their company’s reputation and stakeholder value.

Whether this is by putting aside a contingency fee as soon as it is feasible or putting together a communication, public relations and marketing plan to help them sail through any crisis; being prepared is essential for keeping a business afloat in a competitive market.

Looking at sustainable companies, one major advancement is that consumers and clients are becoming more and more conscious about the sustainable efforts a company makes. The 2019 ‘Irish Retail Consumer Report: Investing in Experience’ found that 41% of consumers were prepared to spend a premium price if it meant a product was responsibly sourced and sustainable.

This positioning of a sustainable company as a leading business means that special efforts must be made to reinforce a positive message into the minds of consumers and clients. Crises put a spotlight on specific problems, but also draws attention to the way a company does daily business, how and to what extent it gives effect to its values, and how it handles itself when faced with difficult events, for example, concerns about misconduct or mistakes.

The main task a business has during a crisis is to always successfully reinforce their values. Public relations is a company’s best friend when it comes to doing something like this. Hiring a public relations company to communicate your sustainable values is important as there are many tools a public relations specialist can use to position you ahead of your competitors. A public relations business may use an opinion leader to reach your target audience or else writing press releases and putting out statements are all other methods which are highly successful too.

Moulding the right plan to suit a company is important and PR and marketing firms are highly skilled when doing this. Engaging quickly, accurately and truthfully are key steps when dealing with a crisis. A business cannot prohibit a crisis, but stakeholders will judge a business on how they deal with the crisis as opposed to why the crisis happened. Upholding core sustainability and ethical values, as well as legal obligations, can be the difference between passing through a difficult period without long-term damage and suffering a more significant and sustained loss in the long-run.

Whether the crisis can be prevented or not by any sustainable company, the efforts which a company takes to lift themselves out of the crisis are the more important steps. Being transparent and open to your consumers and clients and using a smart strategy will assist you in any crisis. Your audience will respect you more for addressing an unexpected event rather than trying to cover it up through poor communication.