What all brands should learn from TSB’s self-inflicted reputational damage
The tragedy of TSB’s botched IT upgrade is that the bank has made things far worse for itself by handling the situation so badly. The Daily Mail headline “Totally Shambolic Bank” summed up the situation for tens of thousands of customers who, two weeks on, continue to complain that they can’t access their bank accounts. Ironically, TSB’s communication has been exemplary in some respects. The bank apologised quickly, promised that customers won’t be left out of pocket, thanked customers for their patience and waived overdraft fees and interest charges. As the crisis dragged on and pressure increased on TSB, the bank upped its response, with increased interest rates for savers and a decision by CEO Paul Pester to forfeit a £2m bonus. Yet TSB’s inability to get to grips with the technical problems have made it virtually impossible to counter the relentlessly negative story in the media.
IT failures, cyber-attacks and the resulting media onslaught and social media customer backlash are scenarios that TNR uses to train banks, supermarkets, transport companies and others in TNR crisis media training and crisis media handling courses. Every organisation should have a regularly updated crisis communications plan that contains a crisis media strategy. Here are three key components of a robust crisis media plan:
- Clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Who’s who in the crisis team with up-to-date contact numbers/emails? What is the chain of command, who reports to whom? Who has responsibility for liaising with media outlets? Who is responsible for monitoring media coverage? Who in the press office/comms team is working in tandem with customer services to prevent customer enquiries/complaints turning into media case studies? Do other staff in the business know how to respond to media by referring enquiries to the press team?
- Established process for timely, appropriate response. Are you in a position to put out a statement within one hour? Do you have pre-prepared holding statement templates for the most likely crises that could affect your organisation? Do you have pre-prepared crisis website page on standby to communicate with customers, media and others? Do you have the right staff and systems in place to give regular media updates? Are you able to ensure messaging is consistent across all platforms/channels?
- Trained spokespeople and press officers. Have the people that represent your brand received high-quality media training, so they can limit reputational damage by communicating with empathy, authority and confidence under pressure?
Bridgid Nzekwu is Director of Media Training at TNR, part of the Press Association. She coaches spokespeople in business, politics and the public sector in media interview and public speaking skills and trains comms teams in media handling. Bridgid is a former Channel 4 News presenter and reporter and is a freelance anchor for ITV News.
Follow Bridgid on Twitter @BridgidNzekwu