Influence communication as an impact strategy in crisis communication

19 October 2018
Crisis communication influence communication as an impact strategy

Crisis communication: influence communication as an impact strategy

The scandal that hit Volkswagen, one of the world’s largest car manufacturers just a few months ago, the scandal that hit Samsung even before the release of its Galaxy Note 7, which must face a manufacturing defect that could cause it to burn at any time, the horse meat scandal used in beef-based ready meals… No company is immune from having to suffer, one day or another, a major scandal that could jeopardize its development in the short, medium and long-term. Because of the specific situations of each company mentioned above and their reaction at the time of the crisis, it must be noted that not all companies have the same strategy regarding communication in a crisis. Some will choose to let it go and wait patiently for the storm to pass, while others will do their utmost to get out of the crisis as quickly as possible by showing a blank cheque to all the stakeholders who want to hear it (press, consumers, suppliers, subcontractors, and many others).

There is no magic solution in a crisis, and this applies to all companies, regardless of the main activity or size of the company in question. We have never seen a company get out of a problematic situation by merely spinning, by implementing a particular strategy whose success was immediate and without any consequences for the company. However, and given what the most important communication and strategy firms are advocating today, influence communication is gaining ground and gradually becoming the ideal solution to emerge from a crisis as quickly and effectively as possible.

What exactly is influence communication? What are the advantages of this particular communication? How can it be implemented to adopt an impact strategy successfully? All the answers to these questions, advice, and things to know in the following lines and nowhere else.

Defense during communication in a crisis: the attack

This idea has been around for a very long time: the best defense is attacking. This expression, which has been used in everyday language for many years now, would mean that when you are in a delicate situation when you are attacked, it is essential to defend yourself that you also go on the attack. All too often, this expression is even misunderstood and its applications are now only approximate. This expression is also belligerent in the collective intellect, yet it has a definite use in the world of business. Indeed, we all know this adage and yet, in this age of the Internet and 2.0 companies, it has never been so topical. With all the tools that companies now have at their disposal to develop their communication policy (social networks, community sites, blogs, company-specific websites, etc.), it has never been easier for companies to unite around them, to create networks, brand ambassadors and entire communities. And when the media attack a company, angry consumers or any other stakeholder with a voice in the matter, it is also straightforward to defend itself using all the means mentioned.
Judging by the few scandals that break out among “people” from all over the world, when a celebrity is attacked on social networks, two entire communities clash on Facebook or Twitter. On the one hand, the supporters of the star under attack who do everything in their power to defend it tooth and nail, on the other side, the fans of the star or stars who attack and who also do everything in their power to protect them. Media and communication attacks are now commonplace in the beautiful world of the Internet.

Communication in crisis situations is no exception to this idea. To get through a difficult time, a company now has every interest in choosing to attack, in other words, to highlight what makes its strength and not what made it possible to weaken at a certain point to get into this crisis. All too often, companies remain silent or timidly assume their mistakes, which contributes to prolonging a crisis that is already having sometimes very negative consequences. Attacking, for a company as part of its communication in a crisis, is like asserting itself, it is acknowledging its mistakes firmly but at the same time highlighting one of its main strengths, highlighting what has always contributed to making it a recognized company with an active community around it.

For example, it would be interesting to apply this idea (“the best defense is the attack”) to the scandal that hit the German car giant Volkswagen. First of all, a summary of the case: vehicles leaving the German production lines were required to pass pollution tests, and more precisely for their entry into service in the United States. At first, all the results obtained were excellent and made Volkswagen vehicles cars that consumed little fuel and were therefore in the best places in the international car rankings. But it was following a study conducted by a very reputable consumer association in the United States that the trick was discovered: to obtain the best possible results, Volkswagen had faked the software on its vehicles to cheat during these anti-pollution tests. Thus, the results were falsely good, and the cars could easily climb up the world rankings. The scandal was resounding, it was talked about in all four corners of the globe, and Volkswagen implemented perhaps one of the worst crisis communications in many years: hesitations, procrastination, lack of communication between the group’s leaders present on all continents… Almost all the mistakes were made during the German manufacturer’s attempt to overcome the crisis. The press was very upset with all the company’s procrastination: one time it was the company’s representative in Canada who gave a version of the facts, another time it was the head office representative who brought a perfect contradiction to the first version of the facts, and so on. All this to ensure that, in the long term, the company’s share price falls drastically and its customers become increasingly dissatisfied.

And so, if we take up our initial idea, which is that the best defense attacks, it is possible to consider the communication in a crisis of the German car manufacturer in a completely different way, and to see that the outcome of the scandal could have been entirely different. By highlighting not only its mistakes but also its strengths, Volkswagen could have said, “Yes, we made a mistake, but the size of our group pushes us to make major decisions to achieve more positive economic results ever. Today, we have made the wrong decision, but we will do everything we can to get this right and continue to meet the expectations of our consumers. “By asserting itself more, by highlighting its main strength, which is the results obtained by the brand from its consumers, the German manufacturer would naturally have found a completely different way out of its crisis.

We have therefore just seen, in the light of the Volkswagen scandal, that the attack during a communication in a crisis can entirely merely be at the origin of a very favorable outcome for all companies that have to go through this kind of situation; Questions can, therefore, be asked: how to implement an attack policy, more precisely what is called an influence communication, in order to get my company out of the crisis it is experiencing? The response in the following paragraph.

Influence communication as the best defense during a crisis

What is influence communication? How does it allow companies to take an offensive position when communicating in a crisis? How can I understand the importance of influence communication in a crisis that can affect my company at any time without it being prepared? These are the three questions we will try to answer in this paragraph.

Influence communication as the best defense during a crisis

What is influence communication? How does it allow companies to take an offensive position when communicating in a crisis? How can I understand the importance of influencing communication in a crisis that can affect my company at any time without it being prepared? These are the three questions we will try to answer in this paragraph.

First of all, it is essential to underline the importance that social networks have taken on in the implementation of corporate communication. The fact of having a website is now something essential for companies; it has been recorded for a few years now. But the real novelty is that a presence on social networks is also becoming something that all companies need to have. The new generation of customers has now connected customers, who do not hesitate to try to find a direct link with their favorite companies through social networks. But this real disruption in the relationship between customers and companies is not without consequences; it is even at the origin of the communication of influence. All the companies that think of social networks as tools that do not succeed in demonstrating their usefulness, all these companies are missing the train of commercial and economic evolution. We cannot hope to survive in an increasingly competitive and internationalized market without creating a real relationship with our customers or with all the people who may one day use our company. And it is this particular, individualized relationship that social networks enable all companies to enjoy. This idea can easily be defended by arguing that the world’s largest companies, the largest groups in the luxury industry, for example, use social networks, such as the craftsman near you. Social networks and the Internet more broadly guarantee an extraordinary relationship with your customer, that is a high strength and the main thing to remember from these tools. Let us now turn to the relationship between social networks and influence.

Influence is therefore what can be theoretically defined as an inherent and specific capacity of an entity that can be political, economic, individual or even social. This ability aims to have a particular influence or attractiveness on a given audience whose character and behavior can be modified. The primary purpose of the influencer is, therefore, in the long term, to change behavior, as we have said, but also the perception of public opinion, consumers and even the entire market. In the age of the Internet, the influence is no longer necessarily on the side of companies, but also on the side of consumers. Indeed, until a few years ago, the person in a position to influence others was often on the side of companies, working alongside companies to make their communication attractive and to change consumers’ perception of the company in question. At the very least, the media could play this role of counter-power, but at a time when capitalism was only growing, the media were more likely to encourage it than hinder it. Today, a simple tweet, a publication on Facebook or the Internet is all it takes to seal the fate of a company and one of its products or services. Consumer communities, opinion leaders, all entities that can exercise influence have multiplied in recent years, and they occupy a significant place on social networks and more broadly on the Internet.

More broadly, our entire economy must be rethought in the light of new technologies, the Internet and social networks. According to the report published in 2006 in “L’économie de l’immatériel: la croissance de demain” by Maurice Lévy and Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the observation had already been made that our economy would change significantly. The main idea of this report is to say that nowadays, real wealth is no longer concrete, but abstract, more material but intangible. The objective is now to create and produce concepts and ideas that aim to give an essential competitive advantage. Influence communication, therefore, aims to bring together all these ideas, all these possibilities, all these tools in a single communication model. To do this, it becomes essential for companies to use the communication relays offered by the Internet sphere, to use them as ideal means to create a community, an environment around the company, and this to dissipate the crisis that affects it. Go to the next paragraph to discover the essential tools for all companies wishing to implement an influence policy as part of their communication in a crisis.

Tools for effective influence communication

Let’s get down to business: that’s it, your company is in the middle of a crisis that is affecting it in a significant way, and it is up to you, the company manager or executive officer, to find a solution to get your company out of this unfortunate situation. Is influence communication your last possible and conceivable way out? Do you want to know what actions need to be taken to ensure successful influence communication? This is where it happens!

Influence communication will allow you to have a positive impact on all your stakeholders. From the media to consumers to your suppliers and subcontractors, none of your stakeholders should remain indifferent to your communication of influence.

As a first step, it is therefore essential to take the necessary distance to identify the causes of the crisis that is affecting you. A mistake with your flagship product? A past error in your communication? A lack of relationship with all your customers? You need to take the time to know why your company is in turmoil, because of who, because of what, and to adapt your influence communication in the best possible way. All too often, companies affected by a crisis do not take the time to make this step back and end up taking the carpet in communication in a crisis that is poorly adapted, poorly thought out and poorly thought out. If you wish to avoid this pitfall, you must, therefore, carry out this essential reflection.

Then, you must think about your communication of influence through all the tools mentioned above: social networks, your company’s website, community sites and blogs that may relay information about you as well as the media, which can also act as relays for the crisis that is affecting you. Once all this has been put on paper, once all this has been duly thought out and thought through, you must do everything possible to achieve a secure communication, with impact, that will highlight your company’s strengths and its ability to weather a crisis. Most often, it is politicians who succeed in implementing the perfect communication of influence: even during the highest possible and imaginable crises, they manage to motivate their entire community of supporters to bring out their strengths and not their weaknesses that have caused this crisis that is currently affecting them. It can be interesting, even for a company, to be inspired by the actions of our politicians when they are going through a more or less serious crisis: you must motivate your community, your network, all your employees, even if it means cutting back on the severity of the crisis that your company is facing.

You are dealing with active and successful influence communication: everything lies in the delicate balance you must maintain with your customers, with all the stakeholders around you. They must support you even in the most challenging moments, and it is your responsibility to harass them when you are going through a complicated period for your company. The more support you have around you, the more your community will be gathered, the easier it will be to get out of the crisis you are going through. The secret of influence communication lies here: to succeed in making the severity of a crisis disappear behind the strength of a company and an entire community. Another example that makes it possible to understand this secret entirely is that of Appel: for some time, during 2014, the American company found itself caught in the wave of a media scandal following some revelations made about the production conditions and scandalous margins of the brand’s phones and other touchpads. This scandal highlighted the Foxconn factory in China, where all Apple products are manufactured under extremely harsh conditions for the Chinese workers present in this factory. But despite a worldwide scandal, the apple company managed to get out of this unfortunate situation in no time, just thanks to clear communication on the upcoming increase in workers’ wages (an increase of just a few percents). Apple highlighted its kindness and willingness to help Chinese workers, rather than assume a fault that could have caused a much larger drop in the brand’s sales. And of course, because of the kindness shown by Cupertino’s company, the entire pro-Apple community welcomed the company’s reaction and encouraged it even more.

Influence communication is now the best that can be done regarding crisis communication, at least according to the Apple example given in the previous lines. It is not easy to achieve influence communication with as much impact as in the case cited, but this particular type of communication can offer a royal way out for all companies going through a complicated period, a period of crisis.

A crisis communication agency to support you

Even after reading all the information given in the previous lines, you would like to have more information on crisis communication and more precisely on influencing communication? At the head of your company or even the managers, you do not feel you have the shoulders strong enough to carry out communication of influence worthy of the name and you would like to benefit from the advice and experience of a specialist, a communication agency in a crisis? So whatever your particular situation, don’t wait for a second longer to discover our company specializing in communication in crisis situations. With the strength of our experience acquired after many years of working alongside many companies in all sectors of activity, we are committed to offering solutions to companies for their communication in crisis situations.

So whatever your company’s main activity, whatever its size, don’t wait for a single second longer to get closer to one of our advisors. The latter will do everything possible to provide you with all the necessary answers to your questions and guide you towards the crisis communication services your company needs most. Because not all companies are on the same page when it comes to reactions to a crisis that may affect them at any time, we are committed to offering solutions that are adapted to the needs and expectations of each of them.

Your customers are on social media and are using them on a daily basis. It is important that we keep them engaged and connected to your brand so that you’re always their first option.

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