Last December, the Central Bank Governor of Trinidad and Tobago announced in a press conference that, “The current $100 note will no longer be legal tender as of December 31, 2019.” He asked for patience and that citizens, “Adjust themselves accordingly.” What then ensued was a full on communications crisis with multiple stakeholders including the financial sector and the befuddled population. Everyone seemed to be playing catch up as conflicting information trickled down with each passing day. Why was the bill being changed in the middle of the Christmas season when shoppers and retailers would be handling large sums of cash? Would the banks have enough new hundred dollar bills to dispense to their customers and how would that happen?
It was eventually explained that the new polymer note would help to “combat money laundering and the possibility of forgery, as it was noted that there was a recent uptick in counterfeiting of the bills.” Almost two months have passed since then and we can’t help but look back at the hundred dollar changeover process and the upheaval that was caused and wonder: What can we learn from this? Here are some ways that data can help with crisis management during a financial fiasco:
Be proactive and clear in your communications: You know your message isn’t being transmitted effectively when the people on your front lines appear most confused. Local banks seemed to be taken aback and it showed in the tentative way communication was being disseminated. When your company is thrown into crisis, you want to ensure that your messaging is consistent, even if you are making it up as you go along. One way to do this is to engage your audience across traditional and new media platforms with a consistent message versus being reactionary. This instils confidence in your brand while being real, “Here’s what we know, this what is what we’re doing and here is how we are serving you during this time.”
Use your customers’ responses to inform your crisis management strategy: The go to way to check the internal temperature of a crisis moment is to go on social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook – two platforms that were ready to capture the changeover crisis in as many hashtags as possible (#RealBlues, #PolymerNote etc.). With media monitoring, your company can easily see the top-level concerns of your clients and figure out ways to build that into your crisis management strategy. At the height of the Demonetisation crisis, there were lots of complaints about banks’ opening hours, long lines to get access to money, confusion over whether the new hundred dollar bill would be readily available at ATMs – banks who were responsive to these complaints were shown to be most favoured as navigating the crisis successfully.
Consider all your stakeholders: One of the most glaring problems coming out of the way the hundred-dollar bill changeover was communicated was that not all sects of the population were considered. Pertinent information was being shared on social media and not on traditional media thus the elderly population was left fishing through newspapers, sometimes days later to figure out what needed to be done. This was detrimental since the period to changeover was very short and every day mattered. And what about people who don’t speak English like the many refugees who live in Trinidad? Bilingual messaging wasn’t factored into the crisis communications plan which lead to a vulnerable population receiving misinformation and being prey to exploitation. People who don’t use the banking industry such as the Muslim community, were also affected. When tackling a crisis, consider the makeup of all stakeholders and what would be the best ways to reach them. Additionally, how you could tailor traditional media and new media to your advantage for different messaging. This will help your brand maintain its customer loyalty even during a tough situation.
Bonus Tip: Expect some humour: Even in the most serious crisis, Trinis especially know how to make picong out of it. Your message may become distorted and take on a new life, factor that into your plan and stay ahead of it by monitoring it. Also, expect smart brands like Starbucks, to capitalise on your catastrophe. Stand firm and trust in the strength of your organisation’s brand to weather any crisis especially when you have data as part of your crisis management plan.