No matter your industry, the ultimate goal of crisis management is to salvage your organization’s reputation – and your bottom line – when faced with a negative or threatening situation. At least, that’s what the majority of the world thinks.
The truth, however, is that exceptional crisis management has a much loftier goal. What you should strive to achieve in your crisis management strategy is not merely to salvage your brand and reputation, but to ensure your organization is positioned better post-crisis than it was prior to the crisis occurring.
Ultimately, your goal is to come out of a hypothetical, or your current, crisis with a stronger, deeper connection with your stakeholders, because you’ve proved an ability to put them first and do the right thing when the proverbial waste hit the fan.
Enter offensive crisis management. When an organization adopts this strategy, it means that are not aiming to resolve a situation, but they intend to fight back. They won’t be taking any crap.
An excellent example of this approach is the situation Whole Foods found itself in a few years ago when a pastor posted a video and filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods for allegedly selling him a cake with an anti-gay slur written across it. The pastor, Jordan Brown, claimed his original order was a cake with “Love Wins” written across it; what he received, he alleged, was a nasty surprise, leading him to publish a video slamming Whole Foods for discrimination.
Already the topic of several controversies over the years, Whole Foods was quick to publish a statement that refuted Brown’s claim, asserting that the accusations were fraudulent and publishing video footage from their store’s surveillance cameras as proof.
The statement and the video footage posted by Whole Foods was an excellently executed crisis management response. The timeliness of the response proved that Whole Foods took the situation seriously, and their statement was comprehensive in proving their denial had a basis. Moreover, posting a picture of their staff with the #LOVEWINS hashtag was a nice touch, giving the Whole Foods’ staff a chance to put a face on Brown’s allegations. As it turns out, Brown was already being sued himself for $27,000 for defaulting on a student loan.
Whole Foods didn’t stop there, however, They announced they would be taking “legal action against both Mr. Brown and his attorney” to the tune of $100,000 for defamation. For some, this was taking offensive crisis management too far.
So, when is the right time to get on the offensive? The answer: when your business absolutely needs it. If your brand has been threatened to the point of long-lasting damage, by all means, consult with your legal team and protect your business. But do not make this decision hastily, or you risk coming across as a corporate bully.
Ideally, when faced with a crisis, you should be aiming to respond swiftly and appropriately, to prove yourself, let your community come to your defense and then move forward.