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A reputation crisis can broadside your business at any time, putting a massive dent in consumer trust and brand integrity. Taking robust, meaningful action to manage that crisis is key to avoiding long-term damage. This includes the disaster-spawned declines in market value and profitability that can quickly threaten your brand’s survival.
With a solid reputation management crisis strategy in place, you can mitigate the fallout and ensure your company’s reputation weathers the storm and comes out better than ever.
The question is, in an unpredictable, threat-laden online environment, how do you build a truly effective corporate reputation management plan? What steps can you take not just to fend off current crises but also protect your image when negative news, bad reviews, and PR nightmares take a swing at your brand down the road?
Learn what you can do to safeguard your business during a reputation crisis, how you can limit reputational risks, and what your crisis response needs in the future.
After the crisis: How to protect your company’s reputation
Whether it’s a viral video, customer data breach, messaging snafu, or just a bad review spinning out of control, having a reputation crisis management framework in place is critical for protecting your brand.
Here are a few best practices for containing a crisis and keeping your corporate reputation above water:
Step back and assess the damage
For many, the first impulse following a crisis is to strike back hard, launching a counterattack that defends your brand and puts critics and naysayers on notice. But while such a response might feel good in the short term, it usually does little to stop the brand reputation bleeding.
In fact, kneejerk reactions to negative news and issues often only make the situation worse, piling more onto your corporate reputation crisis and creating problems that’ll cost even more to fix down the line.
Before issuing a statement or launching into a lengthy online defense, it’s important to take a step back and assess the fallout. Catching your breath and properly evaluating the problem’s impact–on public perception, company value, Google search results, etc.–allows you to more effectively measure the damage to your reputation–including the hit your image has taken among customers, employees, and other vital stakeholders.
Once you know the type and extent of the damage, you have a foundation from which to shape your crisis communication response, both on and off the web. This includes how you deal with media inquiries and how you address the inevitable chatter on social media and customer review platforms.
Of course, you should also use this period to reflect on the source of the crisis and develop guide rails that help prevent such issues in the future (actions you can highlight in corporate communications down the line).
Collecting data on crisis impact provides a powerful numbers-driven basis for developing a clear picture of the problem, navigating the response process, and maximizing your company’s ability to manage and shape public opinion.
Shape your message, and reach out to stakeholders
Once the crisis hits and the impact is mapped out, it’s time to build a clear, consistent response that addresses the reputation crisis and appeases your brand’s primary stakeholders. These may include customers, investors, partners, and even high-level corporate executives.
Your ability to communicate critical crisis details and your response to these key stakeholders is vital not just to effectively mitigating concerns and reputational risk, but getting your public image back on the right track.
Utilizing your crisis analysis data, flesh out important information on:
- What took place
- How that event is likely to impact the company
- How events are likely to affect different stakeholders
- Measures you’re taking to resolve the issue and return to normal
With details in hand, carve out a formal message that breaks down that information and demonstrates your commitment to resolution. While this initial crisis communication should be appropriately tailored to each unique audience, it should remain consistent and on point, addressing the same events and information so as to avoid confusion and bungled messaging in the future.
Remember: honesty is essential during this phase of your corporate reputation management plan. Honesty is a core element of any corporate social responsibility plan and shows you have nothing to hide, preventing omitted facts or lies from hurting consumer trust and brand reputation later on.
Leverage the media (and the internet) with a well-planned PR strategy
To effectively manage a crisis and shape public perception after a public relations nightmare, it’s important to leverage both traditional and online media outlets wherever possible.
Of course, choosing the right leaders, media organizations, and websites for getting your message across is essential to maximizing impact and authenticity. But with a solid media communications plan in place, plugging in your public statement and defending your brand image will be much less arduous and much more effective in the long run.
Building a solid strategy for issuing digital PRs and communicating through the media begins by firmly understanding the situation. When working directly with traditional or online outlets, it’s important to first establish fault, and customize your outreach effort accordingly.
Each situation takes a different PR approach
In situations when your business is actually responsible for the crisis, it’s often better to acknowledge the mistake and be apologetic, developing media-facing content that accepts responsibility while demonstrating a brand-wide commitment to resolution.
However, in instances where your brand is not at fault, issuing a formal, detailed but un-defensive denial may be your best bet. Such cases demand content that simultaneously recognizes the issue AND separates your brand from the crisis, particularly without attracting additional unwanted negativity.
But when it comes to fabricated allegations, half-truths, unfair reviews, or unsubstantiated news items that pose a reputational risk, your PR may require an entirely different approach. In this scenario, making a polite request to retract or even remove that misleading content altogether may be your best option, allowing you to change the narrative directly at the source.
And should this effort hit a dead end, SEO-optimized content suppression may be the best way to repair your brand and make your company’s reputation whole again. An experienced ORM agency can often provide comprehensive repair and corporate reputation management services that take on these challenges for you.
Take control of your reputation on social media
Social media makes it easier than ever for dissatisfied customers, unscrupulous competitors, and online trolls to pounce on a crisis. With so many social media platforms connecting millions around the country and globe every day, it’s essential to have a strong corporate reputation management strategy that reins those bad actors across every social profile.
Managing the conversation across each channel and online community forum allows you to monitor crisis chatter and, at the very least, make an effort to mitigate the impact of viral videos and bad news on your brand.
Of course, your initial response depends on the type and extent of the crisis. But once you’ve acknowledged the issue and established your company’s position on the matter, taking a smart, proactive approach across your Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and elsewhere – one that continually monitors and tracks new mentions – ensures swift, more effective responses.
Fast on-message responses delivered as part of a well-crafted social media strategy demonstrate your concern while strengthening customer relationships. They not only provide critical relief valves that vent the steam out of hot takes and online vitriol. They also provide more control over the conversation, allowing you to steer the public toward more positive content and messaging that helps restore a good reputation.
Bulk up brand defense with corporate reputation management
Managing an effective corporate reputation crisis response is important, as is recovering the sense of consumer trust, sentiment, and credibility your brand enjoyed before your PR problems began. But while things may be back to normal now, a new public relations crisis can strike from anywhere and at any time, making it critical to plan and prepare for the future. That’s where corporate reputation management comes in.
More than fly-by-night contingency plans or digital marketing department side projects, robust corporate reputation management provides a solid framework for preventing and dealing with future PR nightmares. Also known as business reputation management, corporate reputation strategies utilize the lessons learned from previous brand disasters to steer your business away from problems down the road.
How does corporate reputation management help?
From monitoring new brand mentions and mitigating bad online reviews to avoiding crises that have hurt you in the past, carefully-crafted reputation management strategies provide actionable pathways for coping and preventing things from getting out of hand.
Most importantly, the right ORM (online reputation management) strategy empowers you with the SEO, content, monitoring, and removal approach to stay a step ahead of digital flare-ups and ensure your brand remains trustworthy and compelling at every customer touchpoint. With reputation management, you have the online firewall needed to shield your brand from unexpected crisis fallout while retaining competitive positioning in search results.