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6 Real-Life Crisis Management Examples to Learn From

6 Real-Life Crisis Management Examples to Learn From

Home Blog Media Monitoring Crisis Management 6 Real-Life Crisis Management Examples to Learn From

Crisis management refers to an organization’s response to a critical event or crisis.

A critical event can be a negative disruption, an unanticipated incident, a natural disaster, or any threat that negatively impacts employees, stakeholders, property, or a brand’s reputation.

Organizations must stay prepared with a strategized plan to respond, communicate during a crisis, and recover it.

In this article, we will look at different crisis management examples and provide some key takeaways.

Successful crisis management examples

Let’s look at and analyze some successful crisis communication examples.

Outage at Slack

Outage at Slack

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The crisis: In February 2022, Slack, a messaging app, experienced an outage, during which its users could not exchange messages or upload files.

It significantly disrupted business communication for organizations dependent on Slack for instant collaboration.

Slack’s positive crisis management: The company proactively responded to users, acknowledging the outage and saying they were working on it. It updated the information every half an hour until the issue was resolved. Slack also maintains all outage records on its website as a single source of information.

Our takeaways:

  1. Always be proactive in communication whenever there’s a crisis. Slack quickly addressed the issue in this case and kept its customers informed.
  2. Maintain a single source of information to communicate effectively. Slack used its website as a single source for all the information, and there was no confusion among customers.

Scandal at Tyson Foods

Best crisis management examples

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The crisis: Companies must stay prepared to manage a crisis caused by one of their employees or stakeholders. One such crisis happened when John R. Tyson, the CFO of Tyson Foods, was arrested for public intoxication and trespassing. The situation became public when a woman found a trespasser sleeping in her bed.

Tyson Foods’ positive crisis management: After this incident, John R. Tyson issued an apology to its investors and stakeholders and committed to taking measures to prevent such incidents from repeating. Tyson Foods remained silent about Tyson’s behavior and arrest. Its communication focused on instilling faith in Tyson’s leadership ability.

Our takeaways:

  1. Be quick and genuine when apologizing for your mistakes. Owning up to your actions shows trust and authenticity.
  2. Depending on the situation, you may remain silent, especially if your words can create public agitation. In this case, Giving too many excuses could have only worsened the situation for Tyson and Tyson Foods.

Fatal accident at Southwest Airlines

Fatal accident at Southwest Airlines

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The crisis: An engine malfunction on a Southwest Airlines flight led to the company’s first in-flight fatality in 2018. The accident occurred when an engine fan blade broke off and struck and shattered the window next to a passenger, who lost her life in this fatal accident.

Southwest’s response: The company’s CEO, Gary Kelly, immediately came up to manage the situation. He sent a heartfelt apology note to the victim’s family. He also pulled down all company advertisements from social media channels and made personal phone calls to the passengers to offer support and counseling resources.

Our takeaways:

  1. A crisis can strike any business at any point in time. So, it’s essential to prepare for any situation.
  2. Deal with the situation with empathy and genuineness in your words and deeds. This will help manage your company’s reputation.
Media monitoring campaign

Poor crisis management examples

Let’s review examples of poor crisis management and what we can learn from these mistakes.

OpenAI CEO was fired and re-hired within the same month

OpenAI crisis communication

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The crisis: On November 17, 2023, OpenAI board members fired the CEO, Sam Altman. The board stated they were uncomfortable with his leadership and that “he was not consistently candid in his communication with the board.”

Sam Altman, a respected Silicon Valley professional, received much support from OpenAI employees and industry leaders. Greg Brockman, co-founder and president of OpenAI, resigned to protest Altman’s firing.

When Altman lost his job, he received an offer from Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest investor. The offer matched the pay of any OpenAI staff who would come and join Microsoft with Altman. It created a huge ripple effect, and almost 770 OpenAI employees signed a letter saying they would take up Microsoft’s offer if the board members didn’t resign.

The board re-hired Altman within the same month.

What went wrong: The whole event was poorly planned and justified to the public. The board sent out a vaguely worded statement attacking Altman’s integrity without supporting it with proof. No PR team was involved during the process, so the board quickly lost its narrative. The harder the board tried to hide this news, the more it garnered media attention, which flared up the whole series of events.

Our takeaways:

  1. When facing a major crisis, have a solid crisis management plan. Involve all the key stakeholders, including your PR team, to foresee a crisis from every possible angle and create an evidence-backed, transparent crisis management strategy.
  2. Use social media listening tools like Mention to gain visibility into any topics, brand, or leading figure, understand the public pulse around the crisis, and strategize your narrative.

Ticketmaster website crash

Ticketmaster website crashSource

The crisis: Ticketmaster started selling tickets for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour in November. However, the mega launch didn’t go as planned. The website crashed due to the massive amount of consumer traffic.

What went wrong: The company’s response wasn’t quick enough. Ticketmaster was slow in communicating with its consumers. Finally, it apologized on social media with little mention of how it would solve this crisis. Many fans felt angry because they missed the opportunity to buy a ticket to the show.

Our takeaways:

  1. Be ready to react promptly, as not doing so paints a negative picture of your company and shows a lack of empathy.
  2. Prepare to offer solutions so you can meet customer expectations.

Amazon Warehouse mishap

Amazon Warehouse mishap

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The crisis: In 2021, an Amazon warehouse was ravaged after a series of tornadoes hit Edwardsville, Illinois. Six Amazon workers died in the warehouse collapse. A report surfaced, revealing that the workers were allegedly forced to work throughout the tornado period. Soon, the public questioned Amazon’s health and safety policy.

What went wrong: The company’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, delayed a public response and took almost 24 hours to comment on the mishap. His apology note was superficial, and many social media users suggested his statement was insincere.

Our takeaways:

  1. Be transparent during a crisis – it shows your company is trustworthy.
  2. When you make a mistake, you should try crisis prevention to prevent another such incident from happening and communicate it to the public.

Crisis management plan and best practices

Do you have a crisis management plan? Did you get some ideas from the effective crisis management strategies above?

If you’re about to create your crisis management strategy, here are some industry best practices to help you get started.

Have a crisis management team

Crisis management teams are a group within the organization that prepares responses to potential crises. They are responsible for executing and coordinating the entire crisis management plan during a PR crisis.

To set up your crisis management team, start by building your organizational chart and identifying the key people who should be part of it. Ideally, a social media team, members from each function, internal lawyers, and the leadership team should be present on the crisis management team.

Some of the main tasks of the crisis management team include:

  • Identifying and addressing a crisis
  • Coordinating with all internal and external stakeholders, including the leadership team, employees, investors, and media.
  • Assessing the potential risks and threats as a result of the crisis
  • Including points of contact for both internal and external communications.
  • Arranging support services and keeping the morale of the employees and the public
  • Monitoring and evaluating the situation until the crisis settles down
  • Activating the crisis response and crisis command system

Monitor your brand mentions

During a crisis, words can spread like wildfire.

That’s why it’s essential to monitor your brand and product mentions to understand the scale of the crisis – how quickly and where the information spreads, public sentiment, etc. Monitoring can even help you spot and stop a crisis before it blows up.

Also, use a social listening tool to crawl forums and social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, etc. For example, Mention compiles all information into a digestible social listening report, making it easy to understand how social media crises develop.

Mention dashboard

Assess the severity of the crisis

When a business crisis strikes, assessing and measuring its severity quickly and effectively is essential.

A good way to do this is with a pre-made assessment quiz. For example, you can use Opinion Stage’s assessment generator to create a quiz that helps you evaluate the severity of the crisis. The quiz should include questions that help you assess the impact of the crisis on your business, your customers, and your company’s reputation.

Once you have the quiz results, you can use them to take appropriate measures. This approach can help you mitigate the damage and restore normalcy to your business operations more quickly.

Make sure that the quiz covers all the possible factors that can contribute to the severity of the crisis. These can include:

  • Timing and warning signs
  • Stakeholder impact (employees, customers, shareholders, etc.)
  • Legal and regulatory implications
  • Media and public perception
  • Availability of resources for mitigation
  • Potential for escalation

Prepare a crisis response

Your organization must be prepared with a crisis response plan covering all crisis stages – pre-crisis, crisis, response, and recovery.

Here are a few things to consider while crafting your crisis management process :

  • Develop a comprehensive crisis response plan that outlines procedures, protocols, and actions to take in the event of a crisis
  • Draft crisis communication plan templates so you can react promptly in different situations
  • Define escalation procedures, communication channels, and decision-making frameworks to ensure a swift and coordinated response. In most cases, you will need a specific crisis management plan for social media.
  • Include contact information for key stakeholders, emergency services, media outlets, and other relevant parties
  • Conduct training and drills so that every crisis management team member knows their responsibilities
  • Train the agents in your contact center on how to respond in times of crisis

Support your words with actions

Finally, stand by your words. If you have promised to resolve an issue within 48 hours, do so. Hold yourself accountable for your commitments and regularly evaluate your actions’ impact. Be open to feedback and be willing to course-correct if necessary.

Here are a few more things to do:

  • Don’t limit your support to the initial stages of the crisis.
  • Stay committed to your actions and continue to provide support as needed, even as the situation evolves and fades from the headlines.
  • Actively engage with the community affected by the crisis
  • Consider the long-term implications of your actions and decisions during the crisis
  • If applicable, find ways to support frontline workers who are directly dealing with the crisis
  • Maintain transparency in all your communications to be aligned with your company values
  • Substantiate claims with evidence and deal with the entire matter with empathy for the people impacted by the crisis.

Media monitoring campaign

Are you prepared for a crisis?

A crisis is inevitable and can occur to any business at any time. You’ll never know when a crisis hits. Staying prepared with a crisis communication plan, communication templates, dedicated crisis management team, resources, and tools can help brands address and recover from the crisis sooner. Be prompt in your communications, support claims with evidence, and be genuine.

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Evelina Milenova

Evelina Milenova is the SEO and Growth Manager at Opinion Stage. She has worked on social listening and crisis management projects for companies such as Ferrero Group, Nissan, and Merck, among others. Evelina shares her insights on SEO and content marketing on her LinkedIn page.

SEo and Growth @OpinionStage