Crisis communications plans: What we can learn from Sony

By Michelle Morris on February 18th, 2015

Everyone is keeping an eye on Sony. Not because the brand produces high-quality electronics, or because it generates multi-million dollar movie franchises, or even because of its life science research. Sony is being watched by consumers around the world because 100 terabytes of its data was stolen and then leaked from Sony servers in a cyber hack, shutting down a vast amount of production.

No matter all the good a company has done or will do, one catastrophic event can impact its business, reputation and future. Some businesses have failed when disaster strikes, but others, after a long and bumpy road, came out on top. To ensure your brand and growth isn’t negatively impacted by an unplanned event, let others’ experience be a strong reminder to create a communications plan before a crisis hits.

Before: Establish a crisis communications plan.

When developing a plan to use during crisis, two things should be kept front of mind:

  • Keep your company’s spokesperson completely in the loop. By preparing them with a course of action, example speaking points, media briefing tips and mock situations, they will understand their role when a crisis does occur.
  • You can’t over communicate. Your customers, partners, investors and followers will want to know what is happening, why, where, how and when something may be impacting them. Think about where and how you can best communicate with those impacted. After a prank video circulated YouTube in 2009, Domino’s CEO responded on the same platform to reach the most relevant audience.

During: Acknowledge the situation.

In 2013, 40 million Target customers were impacted by a data breach. Instead of letting the information slowly leak out, Target immediately issued a statement outlining the situation, reached out customers about what it meant for each of them and worked with partners to determine next steps when working with customers. By immediately acknowledging the situation, and sharing solutions as well as an apology, Target’s large customer based stayed loyal throughout the disastrous situation.

After: Continue to be transparent.

After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, BP’s reputation suffered. Now, they maintain a webpage dedicated to their oil spill preparedness and response plan, updating the page when necessary to ensure their employees, customers and partners are aware of how they are maintaining and staying ahead of any unforeseen crisis. This reminds their customers and partners that even with the spill behind them, BP is continuing to improve policy and procedure while being honest with their current performance. 

It will be interesting to see how Sony bounces back from this, and if they will remain an entertainment conglomerate. What do you think Sony should have done differently?

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