Never has it been so important to have a crisis plan for your franchise system. With today’s predominance of digital and social media, it’s impossible to keep anything private. And then there is the horrific possibility of your crisis going viral. This widespread exposure has the potential to crush the reputation of your franchise system and in some cases, as in Chipotle’s recent contamination crisis, make your sales and stock price plummet.
The Worse Thing You Can Do Is Do Nothing
You must respond quickly, but wisely. Franchising USA magazine advises: “When the rest of the world is buzzing about your brand, join in and be the one to tell the story you want to be heard. In the middle of a crisis, you have the power to take charge and tell the authentic story behind what may have happened.”
Crisis Plan of Action
While it’s impossible to know what kind of crisis you’ll be facing until it happens, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself. First, establish a crisis team to create your crisis plan of action and delegate responsibilities. One important step in developing this plan is to identify your franchise’s vulnerabilities. Once identified, you can create specific steps to address them. Another important step is designating your franchise spokesperson. This person should be comfortable talking to the press and not get flustered when asked tough questions. Their statement should be prepared and approved by the crisis team. The spokesperson and everyone else who has responsibilities in the plan should be trained so they know exactly what to do. And lastly, the plan should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
The Four R’s of Crisis Communications
In addition to being timely and accurate in your crisis response, you should follow these fundamentals in your communications to ensure you are responding successfully:
- Regret – you should express regret about the problem whether it’s your franchise’s fault or not.
- Responsibility – show that you’re committed to solving the problem.
- Response – convince your stakeholders that you’re dealing with the problem and ensure them that it will not happen again.
- Restitution – explain how you’ll help those who’ve been negatively affected.
To learn more about crisis management – specifically in regard to franchisors – read this detailed report that was prepared for last year’s International Franchise Association’s 48th Annual Legal Symposium titled “Strategic Crisis Management for Today’s Franchise Systems – Planning Ahead to Mitigate Risk and Minimize Adverse Consequences to the Brand When a Crisis Hits.”