The risk of reputational damage is almost unavoidable for anyone or any company in the public domain. Even for the most renowned politicians, multinational corporations, charities, or local businesses.
In fact, at least 88% of brand executives place reputation risk as a top business concern. When your company is hit by a reputation crisis, it is important to jump into action to mitigate the damage and rebuild its reputation. Failure to act fast can cause a loss in market value for your brand and even plunge you into an irreversible financial crisis.
While brand leaders can work to avoid a reputation crisis, sometimes it is unavoidable. Here are critical steps to follow to recover from reputation damage and rebuild your image.
Analyze the Level of Damage Caused
The first step you should take after your brand suffers a reputation crisis is to assess the severity of the damage. You need to take time to analyze how deep the damage digs critically.
Check things like:
- Any shifts in corporate reputation
- Damage to employees’ perception of the company
- Stakeholders’ perception
You will need to quantify the negative attitude the general public develops for the company. When assessing the level of damage caused, you also need to determine which companies or brands are directly responsible for the tainted reputation.
Keep track of your social media platforms and Google results to analyze the damage done to your online image. Other, more easily quantifiable, metrics to look into include:
- Share prices
- Sales performance
Having a clear idea of the areas hit hardest by the crisis gives you a clear roadmap for your responses to clients, employees, stakeholders, and media inquiries.
Get in Touch With Your Investors
Once you have the data of the crisis at hand, you need to get in touch with your investors or stakeholders. Since they already know about the crisis, they will be waiting on management to communicate the numbers in relation to the crisis.
Appeasing your investors is a critical step as it determines whether they stay on board or opt-out depending on the magnitude of the damage. Reach out to all your customers, investors, business partners, and any other primary stakeholders.
As part of your report, you need to clearly explain what led to the reputation damage. You also need to put their worries at ease by detailing the steps you have taken so far in mitigating the crisis and avoiding further damage. How well you put your stakeholders’ worries at ease will determine how well your business adjusts after the crisis.
When it comes to your customers and clients, it is always best to take a clear and honest stance about the crisis. This will ensure you maintain public trust. Lying only reduces your credibility once the real information is leaked to the public.
Rethink and Plan a New Strategy
After suffering a reputational crisis, your recovery strategy should be about reshaping the public perception of your company. Part of your strategy should involve using media outlets to issue public statements from company leaders.
When planning your strategy, take a good look at your brand.
If your brand is at fault:
Your statements should include taking ownership of the mistake and acknowledging your contribution to the crisis. If your company causes reputation damage, you should avoid shifting blame or giving half-truths as this can only make things worse. Consider drafting a public apology as part of your press release to let the public know that you recognize your failure and are committed to resolving the matter.
If your brand is the victim:
Stand up for your brand and remain firm in your position, vowing to get to the bottom of it and bring the parties responsible to book.
Sometimes, reputation damage can stem from a lie published in the news or online. If this is the case, you should firmly ask the parties responsible for a public apology and share the true version of the events they lied about. This will strengthen the public’s trust and promote better understanding.
Set Realistic Goals and Expectations
When hit with a crisis, most people run for the easiest solution to try and resolve the crisis. However, this approach rarely works when it comes to reputation damage.
Part of repairing a damaged reputation involves considering the extent of damage caused and setting realistic goals and expectations throughout the recovery process.
You need to determine what your goals are for every move you make. Also, ensure you know what to expect from your consumers and the public, based on the context of reputational damage you have suffered.
Having realistic goals and expectations can go a long way in helping you mitigate further damage and recovery faster from the current situation. It also makes it easier to track current progress and determine which areas of tour strategy require more effort and resources.
Ensure Employees Understand the Crisis and Why it Happened
During a crisis, your employees are the best ambassadors for your brand. As a leader, it is important to bring your employees on board to ensure they understand what is happening and how it is being handled. It is also a good idea to empower them to make it easier for them to contribute to the recovery process and embrace corrective action.
You may want to use webinar software to hold a company-wide meeting and let all employees know how to handle the crisis if approached by the media or others. This will reduce the chances of someone saying or doing the wrong thing.
Since not all employees can be proactive in defending your brand, you can start onboarding the enthusiastic ones and train them on how to be positive ambassadors as you try to recover from the crisis.
It also helps to incentivize your employees to protect and defend your brand. The idea behind your incentive should be to cultivate a workplace culture where they will actively protect your brand in a crisis.
Trying to rebuild a brand’s reputation after a crisis is a battle where you fight negative content about the brand that led to the crisis. This requires you to remain transparent at all times, especially when handling public issues.
One of the ways you can fight negative press is by revising your online content, removing content that can make the situation worse, and suppressing damaging content using positive content. When dealing with content in the public space, you need to always do it with your corporate reputation in mind. How you deliver the message is highly important when defending your brand’s reputation.
For clients to continue engaging with your brand, they need reassurance that you are capable of dealing with the current crisis promptly and effectively. This calls for transparency in your reputation recovery efforts, including fulfilling all promises made during the crisis. Your company’s survival highly depends on your level of transparency during the crisis.
Regain Consumer Trust (That Is Important for Your Brand)
For any brand to survive the competitive business world, it needs to be trusted by the consumers. After a reputational crisis, the success of your brand depends significantly on how well you work to regain the trust of your followers and consumers.
Even after you have regained complete control of the situation, you should not relent in your efforts to appease your consumers. Ensure your brand reminds the world of its positive aspects such as financial stability, accreditations, and longevity.
When regaining the trust of your consumers, your brand needs to remind the public of its core values in one voice, even when done through different channels. Remind your customers of the efforts taken by your brand to reach its heights of success.
All your efforts should be centered on assuring your customers about your commitment to the changes you highlighted moving forward.
Look Into The Future
After the dust settles on the reputational crisis and everyone is finally looking forward to a semblance of normality, this is the time to plan for the brand's future. Use the lessons learned during the crisis to strategize on maintaining a positive brand image in the long term.
Some of the steps you can take to protect your brand from a possible crisis in the future include employee training, crafting a management plan for a possible crisis, and amending internal cracks that surfaced during the crisis.
How well a brand recovers after a reputational crisis depends mostly on strategy, self-discipline, and commitment. With the steps highlighted in this post, you will always be prepared for a crisis and prevent one crisis from leading to failure for your brand.
Reputation Repair FAQs
Is my business at risk for a reputation crisis?
Yes, every business is at risk for a reputation crisis. It is important to develop a plan before a crisis strikes in order to be prepared.
What is crisis communications?
Crisis communications is the act of managing perception of an event. It isn't management of the event itself. It is communicating in a way to minimize damage.
How can I develop a crisis communications strategy?
It is important to act swiftly when facing a crisis. But don't rush into it without a plan. Respond to journalists via email to avoid miscommunication on the phone or in person. Weigh short and long-term goals when speaking publicly about the crisis. Admit your mistake and articulate your plan moving forward.