The 5 ROCKS of brand prepping

Welcome to the third edition of the Brand Preppers newsletter, where we cover everything a marketer needs to know about getting through a brand crisis.

While the first two issues have been about doom and gloom for Jack in the Box and Intel, you may be thinking:

“Okay, I’m convinced. But what can I do to prevent these things from happening in the first place?”

To answer that, let's go back to my days as an "emergency preparedness public educator" (Say that one fast 3x) and talk through the questions and comments I usually got at the end of a presentation.

  1. “So where are the public shelters? Can you tell them where we should go when it “hits the fan”?
  2. “I’m worried about putting my emergency kit in my garage. What if it collapses?”
  3. “Can’t you tell us when the next earthquake is going to happen?

In case you couldn’t tell, I was literally experiencing a Parks and Recreation episode.

You have no idea how accurate this show is about working in local government.

The truth is, crisis managers are not fortune tellers. We are mere mortals fascinated with the history of catastrophic events and want to get paid to do it.

Unfortunately, the crisis management dogma we follow is complicated, boring to read and require a full-time employee to implement. Totally fine if you have the resources like AirBNB, but not practical for someone who has business continuity planning as part of their “additional job duties as assigned."

So to answer your question above, any brand can get prepared as long as they remember 5 ROCKS of brand prepping, which stands for:

  • Risks and Fears
  • Open for Business
  • Customer Success
  • Kits and Systems
  • Simulations and Drills

Let's break them down, one by one.

R is for Risks and Fears

The first step of brand prepping is to understand what could threaten your brand’s reputation or revenue stream. Traditional crisis management models assess risk by doing two things:

  • Analyzing the company’s physical locations
  • Interviewing key personnel to find out what disasters have happened in the past

However, that mindset doesn’t take into consideration the most important part of a successful brand:

  • What customers are afraid of
  • What keeps C-levels up at night

I'll elaborate more on this in the next issue, but the goal is to make sure you're balancing data and emotion when coming up with your list of risks and fears.

O is for Open for Business

The next step of brand prepping is to create a high-level plan on what it would take to keep the business open, given the risks and fears discovered in step 1.

In case you missed my panel at MailCon, Karin Holmgren of Pitney Bowes brought up that one of the key issues faced because of COVID-19 was keeping their mailing presort facilities open to keep up with demand amidst social distancing guidelines. However, these mailing presort facilities also faced potential closures because of hurricanes and floods in the past.

So using that data, Pitney Bowes might evaluate those past incidents and decide they want to add additional components to their business continuity plan that could (theoretically) include:

  • An “emergency hiring” protocol to account for increased demand.
  • How to reroute mail to other presort facilities in case one gets closed
  • A list of alternative vendors to buy from for building additional infrastructure

C is for Customer Success

Now comes the hard part - communicating your intentions to your customers.

Hailey Cassidy of Americhem learned that the hard way when she was tasked with alerting customers and key stakeholders about whether manufacturing would continue when COVID-19 started.

So she made what she deemed an “emergency marketing plan”, which is actually a crisis communications plan - she just didn't know to call it that.

The best practice for these plans is to use the scenarios from the Risks and Fears exercises to pre-script your messages. It sounds nice in theory, but again, we can’t really predict the future.

Hailey discovered the better way was to identify the order of people who needed to hear the message first. For Americhem, the order looked like:

  • Employees
  • Account managers
  • Customers
  • Media

K is for Kits and Systems

Let’s get real - there’s nothing more alluring than buying a pre-packaged emergency kit and calling it good with your preparedness. Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many storage closets with unused supplies because there was no plan or intent to justify its need.

But it's still important to consider what physical items you might need to prepare for those risks and fears you outlined in step 1.

For example, if Pitney Bowes or Americhem discovered they need their employees to spend the night at the warehouse to sort mail or continue manufacturing, they might purchase things for sleeping cots, basic toiletries, and protein bars to ensure their employees are comfortable and fed.

S is for Simulations and Drills

While it’s nice to write down things on paper, the best way to test if what you implemented actually worked is by running a simulation of a crisis.

The easiest way to do this is walking through a scenario verbally, in a regular standing meeting you already have. This is known as a tabletop exercise.

I realize that this is a pain to do when the last thing people want is yet “another meeting.” But look at this way - without the simulation or drill, the risk or fear only lives on a piece of paper.

In other words, simulations and drills “show vs. tell” why preparing for a crisis is important.

Now, A Recap

Already forgot everything you read? All you have to remember is:

  • Risks and Fears
  • Open for Business
  • Customer Success
  • Kits and Systems
  • Simulations and Drills

I’ll explore each of these components individually in upcoming issues, but which of these ROCKS have you done?

Hit the Reply button and let me know - even if the answer is “Uh, none of the above.”

Stay safe,

Sophia :)

Brand Preppers

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