Narrative Analytics for PR and Strategic Communications
Part I: Brands in Crisis
Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash
August 25, 2017
By Jeff Marshall
How to Build a New Narrative When Customers Lose Faith in Your Business
No company can thrive without the trust of its customers. Nor is any company immune to missteps, poor decision-making or other brand-damaging events that can ultimately impact revenue and customer loyalty. Products become tainted, executives get caught in scandals, stray employees make viral news–it happens to almost every major business at some point. After a crisis, the path forward is often hard to navigate. PR and Strategic Communications professionals need data-driven guidance for how to rise to the challenge of repairing a damaged brand.
For communications professionals, crises often mean dropping your existing strategies and working tirelessly to minimize damage. Oftentimes the appropriate immediate response is intuitive–apologize, shuffle priorities, take the necessary actions, etc. But the next stage, in which you rebuild your messages and regain consumer trust, is trickier.
Building a Brand Strategy From Scratch
PR and Strategic Communications professionals tasked with rebuilding a brand in crisis face a number of unknowns:
- How broad was the impact of the negative press?
- How strongly do those negative messages resonate with key audiences?
- What do target audiences really think about the brand and related issues, and why?
- What actions and messages are most likely to win back customer trust?
By systematically analyzing the deeply held beliefs that drive customer behavior, Narrative Analytics removes the mystery from these unknowns, boiling them down into actionable data and real numbers, so communications professionals can make informed decisions about how to regain customer trust. The process of rebuilding a brand in crisis usually takes time, but the progress can be seen in the data, as narratives about your brand shift, evolve, and, hopefully, improve.
The starting place is a data-driven approach to an age-old principle: The best way to move forward after a crisis is to build a new narrative. In the quiet that follows a blow to your brand, the data often reveal the way to cast a new identity for your company.
Using Narratives to Start Fresh
One recent Protagonist client, a major banking institution, had a long legacy of being deeply trusted and well respected, especially when compared to fellow banks. That all changed overnight when a group of employees acted unethically, and were exposed for doing so in the popular press. The people involved were disciplined, but the narrative of a company gone awry had already taken hold, and the institution’s reputation was badly tarnished.
The PR and Strategic Communications team had to find a way to refresh the business’s reputable brand and move past the scandal. Creating a new narrative would give them the opportunity to re-enter the public discourse on their own terms. But choosing the right narrative was critical.
After examining the positive and negative narratives in the space, Protagonist found an ideal opportunity embedded in the data: re-engage at the local community level. The data showed that this customer still had strong, but under-utilized, brand equity at the community level, based on authentic interactions that reinforce the value of a local banking institution. Combined with a focus on establishing a new kind of banking relationship and community, through mobile and digital banking (especially for younger generations), this emphasis on community is enabling the bank to write a new story about who they are, what they stand for, and how they create strong, ethical bonds with customers.
As the bank makes progress establishing its new story in the Narrative Landscape, the PR and Strategic Communications team is watching the narratives evolve, to understand which tactics are working, and which need adjustment. The road to a trusted post-crisis brand may be long for this bank, but data, and Narrative Analytics, are pointing the way forward.
Jeff Marshall, VP, Customer Success
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