Recent Study Reveals the Best Crisis Response Strategies for Repairing Trust


Photo Credit: thorinside via Compfight cc

By Sara Staffaroni
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose

Some might say that crisis communication is an acquired taste. While most people cringe at the thought of facing a PR crisis, others (like myself) see an opportunity to take everything we have learned from our own mistakes and those of others, and apply them for a beautiful result.

While it’s clear that crisis management must be an essential part of any company or brand, there is still very limited research on which media channels are the most effective for communicating post-crisis messages, as well as which type of post-crisis strategy is best for recovering brand trust.

Rick Reed, Issue & Crisis manager at Intel Corporation, addressed these principles through research in his dissertation: Recovering Corporate Consumer Trust: A Study of Crisis Response Strategies and Repairing Damaged Trust.

In his research, Rick focused on answering the following:

  • In the case of a corporate product crisis, what is the best channel to communicate to consumers — traditional online websites or social media websites?
  • In the case of a corporate product crisis, what is the best response strategy to rebuild brand trust in consumers post-crisis?

To answer these questions, here are some of the top results from the study. Some of the points might surprise you!

  • A product crisis has a negative impact on consumer brand trust (we can all agree on this).
  • The most effective crisis response strategies to recover brand trust are:
    • Accommodative crisis response strategy — means taking full responsibility of crisis and requesting forgiveness.
    • Blended crisis response strategy — is a combination of accommodative response and defensive response. Ex: “While we did not intend for this to happen [defensive], we recognize that we are responsible to our customers and will act accordingly to fix the problem immediately [accommodative].”
    • In some cases, “doing nothing” and “letting the storm pass” also lead to recovering damaged brand trust. Therefore, crisis managers can rely on “time” to allow consumers to rebuild trust in the brand.
    • Online social media is — here’s the shocker — NO MORE effective than other online media channels (i.e., traditional media websites like CNN.com). Hence, these online channels should be used alongside for best results.

So where do we go from here?

Most companies and brands are global, so it would only make sense to extend this type of research to a global demographic; some countries are more engaged in social media and/or online media than others. Every company, along with the geographical locations and cultural communities in which they function, are a little different. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could have customized crisis response strategies based on geographic location?

I would like to personally thank Rick Reed for the opportunity to share his findings. 

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