How to handle crisis communication - insights from Nigerian tech brands

For businesses, crisis is unavoidable. It can stem from anywhere either within the brand or outside of it

How to handle crisis communication - insights from Nigerian tech brands

Crisis communication is a form of communication where brands and organizations communicate a major threat to their business or reputation to clients or employees.

For businesses, crisis is unavoidable. It can stem from anywhere either within the brand (e.g. a case of misconduct by employees) or outside of it (e.g. dissatisfied customers). More examples of crisis situations are cyber-attacks, product recalls, corporate malfeasance, etc.

When mishandled, crisis communication can cause brands negative consequences that might ruin their reputation or even lead to their fall. However, when handled properly, it can control the potential damage the crisis poses and may even prevent an incident from transitioning into a crisis.

When crisis occurs, organizations are advised to follow some of the steps below for effective communication;

  • Communication should be in real-time
  • Messages should be relevant to the party or individual
  • Respond quickly
  • Leverage your supporters
  • Put the victims first
  • Be transparent
  • Preparation is key
  • Don’t play the blame game

In recent years, we have seen various crises rock the nation like; the End SARS protests, sudden government regulations, and internal crisis within organizations.

Risevest’s ousting of its head of marketing

The first week in February saw the sad announcement made by Risevest’s head of marketing Efe on Twitter. In the tweet, she stated that she would be leaving the fast-rising fintech company due to certain policies around her work location. According to Efe, her contract required her to work from home but the company requested that she works from the office.

She said she wasn’t given enough time to act before actions were taken by the organization’s founder to lay her off. The founder Eleanya Eke also responded to Efe’s tweet. He  wrote a rejoinder explaining his own version of what  happened.

Taking a cue from this situation: This was a very sensitive situation which gave insight into how Risevest operates and deals with its internal conflicts. The hasty response from the founder showed that the company wasn’t prepared for a situation such as this (something a lot of startups should learn from).

Although the founder took swift action to quickly respond to the situation, which was a good move (before any major reputational damage was started on social media), he could have taken time to curate a well detailed rebute. It is essential the company learns from this, by taking time to release an official statement via its organization’s channels rather than through a personal channel.

Bolt’s ENDSARS Ride Hailing Crisis

As one of the popular ride-hailing companies in Lagos, Nigeria, Bolt came under heavy scrutiny by the Nigerian youths during Nigeria’s ENDSARS protests.

The scrutiny was as a result of multiple complaints against the ride-hailing company, accusing its drivers of taking riders and getting them arrested by SARS - a body originally responsible for arresting armed robbers.

During the protests, allegations of Bolt drivers were accused of collaborating with SARS, the rogue police body and subject of the protest.

It wasn't Bolt's first rodeo with bad PR in Nigeria. In recent times, the ride-hailing company has gathered undesired attention for unsavoury experiences people had with its drivers including cases of harrassment of female customers.

However, this particular accusation, if unchecked could permanently tarnish the brand's image in the country.

In a response to this development, Bolt released an official statement, where they addressed the issue. In the statement, they detailed the steps it took through its high priority team and the process it followed to deal with any of such occurrences. Bolt also went further to enlighten people about the features of its safety toolkit. They also released a handy safety champ kit with special merch that promotes safety awareness.

Bolt also released another communication which was a comprehensive blueprint which it sent to all its riders via mail, detailing its commitment to improving service delivery on the platform. To further assure riders of safety on its app, they announced that on-trip insurance is automatically activated on every trip thereby ensuring safety on all its rides.

Bolt followed almost all the steps we initially listed above in tackling its crisis communication issues - it communicated in real-time via its social media handles, messages were relevant to the party or individual, it responded quickly, it put the victims first, it was transparent with its communication, and it didn’t play the blame game.

Cowrywise versus Funmi Oyatogun

Leading fintech company Cowrywise and a popular Twitter user Funmi Oyatogun were involved in a public debacle where Funmi complained of an unresolved theft of case of theft of millions of Naira from her account.

After making several inhouse attempts at resolution spanning over  seven months, Funmi was forced call out Cowrywise on social media.

The initial response by the company was badly received by members of the public. The company shifted the blame to the customer, insinuating that she must have carelessly given away her login details. It further went on to stress that in its 3 years of existence, it had never had similar issues with customers.

Cowrywise could have handled its communication better. By following the communication module I highlighted earlier. However, they later released an official statement where they empathized with Funmi and refunded her all stolen funds.

Parting thoughts

A lesson to be learnt from these various scenarios is that organizations shouldn’t be merely reactionary during crisis management situations, rather they should be prepared with ample preventative measures in place. Ideally, every organization should have a plan for the pre-crisis, crisis and post-crises phases of crisis communication. They should also train members of their team on how to communicate better in a crisis situation.

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