Crisis Management- Utilizing Brand Voice

By Madison Taylor
March 28, 2021
Businessman in full suit in studio pointing at glass of beer, (B&W), portrait

Achieving an authentic brand voice requires careful consistency in planning and execution. It can take years to build. Then, at a moment’s notice, your brand can be called on to respond to a crisis that its carefully crafted voice really wasn’t designed to address. There is no one-size-fits-all advice to the use of brand voice in crisis responses, but what we do know is that to successfully guide your response, you absolutely need a clear understanding of your brand’s values and be able to relate those values to the crisis at hand.

Why Is Brand Voice Important

When a crisis hits, brand consistency is paramount. Your messaging might have to change to accomodate more serious issues than you typically deal with, but your voice and tone has to be recognizably yours. When KFC ran out of chicken in the UK, they didn’t respond to the negative press with a verbose, corporate letter. Instead, the company known for its online irreverence put out a simple ad reading “FCK.” It was endearing and apologetic all at once.

In their survey, Sprout Social asked customers what made a brand stand out. The results were striking:

  • 40 percent of customers said that memorable content was the most distinctive part of a brand’s presence
  • 33 percent referenced a brand’s distinct personality
  • 32 percent said compelling storytelling

In each of these aspects, the brand’s voice is significant. It establishes your brand as unique and gives life to the values and principles that set your brand apart from your competitors.

A brand voice makes your organization’s content consistent and recognizable. Just as you can recognize your favorite musician by their style, a piece of content should be recognizable by its visuals, voice, tone, and word choice, all without needing to display a logo or mention a brand name.

The Importance of Speed

In the current digital climate, news travels across social media in a matter of seconds, reducing the amount of time a brand has to formulate a response. Failing to respond to a relevant issue in a timely manner can be just as damaging as a poorly formulated response, and can potentially lead to damage to the brand’s reputation.

An established brand voice provides an advantage in a situation where a quick response is necessary. Your content creators will need to act quickly, and they’ll need to respond in the voice and tone of your brand in a timely manner. A feat made possible by having a clearly defined and brand voice to communicate your message to your customers.

Engaging During a Crisis

When responding in a crisis, the last thing you want is to come off as tone-deaf or out of touch. Many brands learned this difficult lesson the hard way in early 2020, as their scheduled posts about vacations and visiting family went out during the initial waves of lockdowns.

Instead of self-promotion, brands should be reaching out in a crisis, leveraging the shifting moods of their customers for long-term engagement. Ad dollars that would have been spent on simple promotion can instead be used on engagement and genuine communication.

Crucially, don’t try to climb on the bandwagon. If you have a brand that’s committed to certain causes, then stay committed to genuine messaging around those things during a crisis moment just as you would normally. If you don’t have a history of backing causes or of corporate activism, don’t try to start in the middle of a crisis. Your customers will recognize the inauthenticity a mile away.

Brand Consistency is Essential in Crisis

Establishing a consistent brand voice and tone for your organization, creating content that’s consistent with that voice, and engaging with your audience regularly will all help build a foundation you can turn to during a crisis. This does not mean that you can never waiver from your brand voice, but it does mean that you’ll find a more receptive audience when your crisis response is genuinely reflective of your brand’s established values and voice. Responding authentically and connecting an organization’s established values with the crisis issue is always the best place to start when crafting crisis responses.