NEW YORK, United States — For the latest in our series of #BoFLIVE events, Executive Editor Lauren Sherman sat down with Jesse Derris, founder of his namesake PR agency, and Mory Fontanez, founder and chief executive 822 Group. In the virtual panel discussion, the expert panel reflected on how brands should manage their external communications in response to a crisis.
With the advent of social media there has been a “democratisation of power, and what we’re seeing now is brands, executives and CEOs being called out publicly in a way the workforce and consumers didn’t have the power to do before,” said Fontanez. Most recently, brands across the fashion industry have been criticised for engaging in performative allyship in response to mounting anger over systemic racism in the US. Both consumers and employees of the brands were quick to highlight that simple social media posts rang hollow when the corporate structure at these companies lacked diversity.
“Crisis comes from chaos that’s been building internally inside of an organisation for a very long time… The answer I give [brands and executives] is… [you] have to start with some radical self awareness right now about what is truly happening internally at this organisation that has allowed this thing to grow in the way that it has,” Fontanez added.
- Ownership: Taking responsibility for when something goes wrong is the first step. Where some brands fall flat is when they “quickly come up with a message, versus really doing the work to understand ‘what has happened inside our operations or culture… and what are we going to do about that?’” Fontanez said.
- Listen: If your brand is being held to account on an issue, whether by consumers or employees, it’s important to listen and to take the time to understand the issue, rather than just being reactionary. Brands used to speak at people, "but now they’re speaking with them, and when you speak with somebody you should expect them to talk back,” Derris said.
- Empathy: When issuing an apology to your community, it’s important to ensure empathy is part of the conversation. “Apologies fall flat… because they become self centred. They become about self… the apologies where you see executives shine is when they’ve really taken a moment to understand the other part of it… and expressed empathy in that apology,” Fontanez said.
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