According to a Deloitte poll, 88% of brand executives consider reputation risk to be a top strategic business concern. When your organization faces a reputation crisis, you must act quickly to repair your public image. Otherwise, your brand may lose market value and fall into a financial quagmire.
So, how could brand leaders minimize reputational damage that could lead to catastrophic occurrences such as bankruptcy, liquidation, or insolvency?
This article delves into the brand reputation issue and offers an eight-step approach for averting the disaster and rebuilding your image.
1. Analyze the level of damage caused
The first step to take when your brand suffers from a reputation crisis is assessing its severity. This is where you take a step back to analyze the depth of the damage caused. To understand how serious the situation is, you should quantify changes in corporate reputation, a downtick in perception among employees and stakeholders, and a negative attitude towards the company.
During the initial assessment, it is important to identify any executives or specific brand entities that are directly responsible for the event. Remember that the brand crisis is reflected online, so keep track of the situation on social media platforms as well as Google search results. You will also need to capture non-media metrics such as sales performance, profitability, and share prices.
Conducting a thorough evaluation of the crisis and its impact on the brand provides the basis for all responses to customer and media inquiries. It is crucial to how stakeholders react throughout the recovery process.
To navigate a corporate crisis successfully, you must have all the data at hand, while carefully separating facts from fiction. All this is what this step involves.
2. Get in touch with key stakeholders and investors
Once you have a clear picture of the current situation, it is time to communicate the impact of the crisis. The first group of people to appease should be major stakeholders in your brand. These include business partners, investors, customers, and other primary stakeholders.
Here, you need to formally provide details of how events unfolded, leading to the crisis. Additionally, let them know what measures you’re taking to resolve the situation. Your ability to bring the company back into alignment rests on how well you can engage key stakeholders.
If you’re looking for reputation crisis examples and how companies dealt with it, look no further. A case-in-point is when Twitter was compromised and accounts of notable public figures used for a cryptocurrency scam in July 2019. Twitter Support informed all affected users as well as the Twitter community what happened and how they’re dealing with the situation before leveraging the press.
When informing customers what happened, always strive to remain honest. Otherwise, you will ruin the situation and jeopardize public trust.
In 2011, when Target suffered a major security breach, they tried to downplay the number of credit card details compromised at the beginning, which reduced their credibility when the actual statistics showcasing the real hack were released.
3. Thoughtfully plan your media communication strategy
The aim of every reputation management strategy after a crisis is to shape public perception. Part of this will involve leveraging the media, where brand leaders issue a public statement and pick the right person to deliver it. This might not be as easy as it sounds since you’re defending your brand’s position in the court of public opinion. For this reason, you need to understand the impact of your press release.
In most cases, any of these three situations will apply when communicating with the media.
The first is when your brand is at fault. Here, you need to acknowledge and take ownership of the mistake. An attempt to conceal the truth or deflect blame on another party will only worsen your brand reputation. So, deliver an apology letting the public know that you recognize the failure and that your brand is absolutely committed to resolving the problem.
Read Also: How to Write a Brand Story That Works
Another situation is when you’re not at fault. Here, you do not just roll over, take the blame, and deliver a half-hearted apology. The public might perceive your brand as weak, which is equally damaging. Instead, stand up and remain firm in your brand’s position.
The third scenario is when the reputational damage stems from a mistruth published online or by local news outlets. While seeking retraction might seem helpful, it is important to take a more collaborative path by asking the journalist or writer responsible to politely apologize and share the true version. This will promote better understanding and enhance public trust.
Worth a mention is that not every crisis requires you to contact the media. In some situations, you can pull away from media inquiries and only communicate when you can.
4. Focus on strong internal communication
Employees are the best ambassadors your brand has during a crisis. As part of the leadership, you should ensure all employees understand the reputation crisis and why it happened. You should also empower them so that they contribute to alleviating the high-heated situation by embracing corrective actions.
While not every employee can proactively defend your brand, you can start by picking the most enthusiastic and training them. Other than training, you can provide rewards and incentives for motivation. The ultimate goal is to build a culture where all employees can proactively protect the brand image when a crisis hits.
5. Adjust your social media response plan
Over 65% of business leaders believe that social media can worsen a brand crisis, which is true in today’s socially driven world. However, you can enhance the restoration process by taking control of your communication platforms. This means taking charge of conversations on your website affiliated blogs, social media channels, review websites, and any other online platform.
As expected, you should publish a formal apology across all these platforms. The apology should be brief and factual. Starbucks did this when apologizing for a racist incident. Alternatively, you can publish a video of the same where a top executive like the CEO delivers the apology message.
After issuing a statement, you must track all hashtags and keywords that feature your brand. Here, you can use a social monitoring tool that alerts you whenever online users talk about your brand. This way, it will be easier to swiftly respond to all comments. Showing the online community that you care about the situation can really pay off when it comes to maintaining good relationships with customers.
When responding to online messages, always remain consistent. You should ensure all subsequent responses reflect your brand position as portrayed in the initial statement.
6. Maintain transparency when handling public issues
Rebuilding your reputation after the crisis is often a battle with all the negative content that blew up your image in the first place. Typically, this involves revising your content, removing content, suppressing damaging content, and publishing positive content relentlessly.
As you deal with content, remember that corporate reputation lies in your delivery, and not your promises. In order for clients to continue working with your brand, they need assurance that you can deal with the current crisis effectively. Here, you must transparently demonstrate how you’re fixing the problem. If you make any promises during the crisis, be sure to fulfill them for the business to survive.
7. Reinstate trust and core corporate values
Trust is one of the defining characteristics of success in today’s corporate world. This is why regaining consumer trust is important for your brand to successfully rebuild its reputation after the crisis. Even if you’ve almost taken full control at this point, you should not relax. Instead, ensure your brand conveys positive aspects such as accreditations, financial stability, longevity, and all positive feedback acquired in the past.
This is an opportunity for the brand to speak in one voice while demonstrating its core values to the public. You should remind customers of the strides the company has taken over the years to attain its current success. The bottom line here is assuring customers of your commitment and showing what measures you have in place to ensure success moving forward.
8. Look into the future
When the PR crisis is over and everyone is feeling relieved and looking forward to returning to normality, remember there’s still one more thing to do. This is planning your brand’s future. The crisis should be an opportunity to assess how you can maintain your brand’s reputation in the long term.
Warren Buffet once said that “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” For this reason, every brand should put in place a concrete plan for ensuring a similar crisis does not occur again.
Amending your internal processes, training employees proactively, and creating a reputation crisis management plan are some steps you can take to protect your brand in the future.
Marketing Techniques for Reputation Repair
1. Responding to negative feedback
Every company has a negative review. Someone will inevitably be dissatisfied with the quality of your service, your products, or your staff, and it’s not always easy to respond to negative reviews. When you receive negative feedback, it’s essential to respond quickly and professionally. Responding to a review with an apology and an offer to fix the problem shows that you care about your customers and are ready to make amends.
Mastery begins with understanding the impact of negative reviews, the types of reviews and reviewers you may encounter, and the steps to take when responding to negative reviews.
As a company, providing a platform for addressing negative reviews is crucial for success. For example, Cox customer service is well-known for its prompt responses to customer queries, thereby making Cox a reliable and prominent brand name among other Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
2. Monitor your online reputation
Regular monitoring of your online reputation is essential to rebuilding your reputation. You can use various tools, such as Google Alerts, to track what people are saying about you online. This allows you to respond quickly and effectively to negative comments or reviews.
Monitoring your online reputation gives you a much-needed view of what potential customers, customers, and other stakeholders are saying about you.
You will improve your understanding of customers, and this will inform you about how your products or services perform in search results and sales. To top it all off, you’re more likely to avoid a crisis or controversy if you catch them early before they can get out of hand.
3. Create positive content
Creating and promoting positive content can help you rebuild your reputation. This may include writing blog posts, creating videos, and sharing positive news and feedback about your brand. This will help neutralize any negative information and improve your overall online presence.
For example, your website must exactly match your company or name. By publishing and updating your website regularly, you can improve its ranking. The higher your site appears in search results, the more likely users are to click on it rather than on subsequent search results.
4. Interaction with your audience
Engaging with your audience is essential to rebuilding your reputation. This may include responding to comments, answering questions, and thanking people for their support. Connecting with your audience helps you build relationships and demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction.
Smart consumers’ today look not only at brand marketing but also at the real experience and opinions of customers. And customers are not afraid to share negative experiences. They criticize your shortcomings on social media or Google, and petty complaints can get out of hand. Before you know it, you’ll have a PR disaster.
5. Use social media to your advantage
Since online reputation management is essential to growing your business, you should do your best to maximize your name. Consider getting into social media to build a strong business portfolio and reap the rewards. Get your business on the right track by using social media to showcase your online brand.
Social media is a powerful tool for rebuilding your reputation. By posting updates regularly and engaging with your followers, you can showcase your expertise and present your brand in a positive light. You can also use social media to share positive reviews and testimonials from satisfied customers.
By effectively managing your social media, you can build your reputation by increasing brand awareness. It helps you find your target market by effectively narrowing down potential buyers, finding all the social networking sites that these consumers visit regularly, and ensuring your business has a strong presence on those networks.