Brand Book Bites from Organizations in the Face of Crisis

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The book: Organizations in the Face of Crisis: Managing the Brand and Stakeholders — a thorough text on a tough topic

The brains: Dennis Tafoya is the president of CompCite Inc., a research and development firm whose research focus explores factors that affect performance at individual, group and organizational levels.

Check out my conversation with Dennis to learn:

  • how brand trauma causes the loss of influence, credibility, esteem, privileges
  • why managing the crisis is different from managing the firm on a day to day basis
  • the 3 parts of a crisis management plan — identifying factors causing crisis, keeping the doors open, reducing likelihood of recurring

The best bits: Although this book is about brands in crisis, it contains a lot of important insights about brands in general.

For example, it identifies four types of organizations and the role of brand in each.

1. Enterprise — commercial businesses, manufacturing facilities, organized crime — “An enterprise’s features and benefits, and products or services shape the organization’s brand or image… Enterprises tend to look up on the brand as ‘this is who we are, this is what we believe.’

2. Community — e.g., religious and political organizations, schools, etc. — “The role of the brand for communities stems from the organization’s driving force; its directional makeup, vision, and mission.

3. Team — sports teams, swat teams, skunk works teams, etc. — “A team’s brand is tied to its performance against its mission… Failure to achieve the team’s mission can trigger a crisis and directly affect the team’s future.

4. Individual Contributor — “The brand…links to a person and it’s that person’s competence, performance, and behaviour that becomes the standards and expectations for evaluation.

On the core topic of the book, Dennis explains two primary concepts:

  • stakeholder swarm — defined as “the emergence and behaviour of stakeholders once an organization slips into a crisis…[They] are comprised of the organizations, groups, and individuals that surface as the crisis unfolds.” The book offers ways to think about, analyze, and manage the swarm.
  • brand trauma — defined as “the multidimensional features, products, outcomes, and impacts the organization, its brand, and stakeholders can experience when an organization is under attack or stressed by a crisis…[It] reflects the damage, exposure, or risk to the very features that define the organization’s credibility, quality, trustworthiness or general inherent value.” Dennis unpacks the different causes of brand trauma and ways to address them.

The brand story — There aren’t a lot of stories in the book but the brand that Dennis references a few times is BP. He writes:

“When a crisis occurs, brand trauma seems to permeate the crisis event…When the British Petroleum (BP) oil rig exploded, the company’s share price dropped, and as dramatically, people stopped shopping at BP gas stations. Stakeholders were making a statement signalling their sentiments regarding the crisis and the crisis’s management.”

But separately he observes, “Apart from the impact on stakeholders, sometimes the impact of a crisis can become part of the lore associated with an organization.” And, “Simply mention names such as ‘BP oil’ and think of the images that come to mind. Those impression-laden organizations may not be in the news currently but effects of past crises on their brands lingers.

It’s an excellent example of how a single incident can shape a brand forever — and a cautionary indicator of why how you manage a crisis and its impact is so critical.

The bottom line — Organizations in the Face of Crisis is dense and reads like an academic journal but it’s packed with helpful frameworks, lists, and exhibits to explain the concepts you’ll need to manage through a brand crisis. It’s not one of the hip and popular books you hear about in social media these days, but it’s an important read.

Other Brand Book Bites:

Image via flickr

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