Brand Strengthening – Protecting an Online Brand Before Crisis Happens


Navigating the complex digital realm can be daunting for brands, but this comprehensive guide sheds light on the importance and intricacies of Online Reputation Management (ORM).


How to protect your brand before a media crisis happens. When a crisis happens it’s too late to strengthen your brand online. It’s going to be damaged. But if you improve the resilience of your brand prior to something bad happening, your online brand will bounce back much faster. And when we say faster, we mean by months or even years.

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Potential threats to your brand’s reputation are on the rise. Misinformation, especially ahead of elections, has ventured into the red zone. Misinformation is intentional and can damage your brand online. But scandal is just as bad and has much the same effect. 

Identifying Potential Threats to Brand Reputation

Before you can effectively protect your brand from media crises, you need to understand where these threats may come from. Social media, for instance, has amplified voices, including people’s complaints and grievances.

A negative experience shared on social media can quickly go viral, tarnishing your brand’s reputation in literally hours. Before working to protect your online brand, level-set your online reputation. How does your brand look to prospective customers? How does it look compared to competitors? What is your brands’ star rating on Google Reviews or other platforms? Check out hashtags that pertain to your company. Identify any bloggers who might have it out for you.

In other words, get the lay of the digital land.

Proactive Brand Monitoring

Next, set up brand monitoring. There are a lot of tools out there to do this, from free tools like TalkWalker to paid tools like Brand24.

Being proactive in monitoring your brand’s online presence is crucial for detecting and addressing potential crises before they escalate. You cannot monitor every channel personally. Thankfully there are various reputation management software tools available that can help automate the process. These tools offer features such as social media listening, sentiment analysis, and competitor monitoring, allowing you to stay informed about what is being said about your brand online.

By investing in reputation management software and regularly monitoring your brand’s online sentiment, you can respond swiftly and effectively when negative activity arises. The faster you respond, the better. 

But how do you respond? Well, that’s where a crisis response plan comes in.

Preparing a Crisis Response Plan Before a Reputation Disaster Hits

Being prepared is essential when it comes to managing a media crisis. A crisis management plan tells you who does what, and when, and under what circumstances.

Develop a crisis response plan that outlines the roles and responsibilities of your crisis communications team. For example:

  • Designate a crisis communications team leader who will coordinate the team’s response, oversee message development, and facilitate approvals with senior leadership.
  • Have a designated crisis communications coordinator who will assist the team leader in prioritizing responsibilities and project managing the response.
  • Ensure that there is a final approver, a high-ranking executive who will provide final approval on all publicly disseminated information, and act as a spokesperson when necessary.
  • Include legal counsel and IT/security team members who will provide expertise and support during a crisis.

Addressing Negative Feedback

In the event of a media crisis, it is important to address negative feedback head-on with honesty and transparency. Again, having that crisis management plan ready to go will help you do it quickly and correctly.

Ignoring or attempting to hide the problem will only make matters worse in the long run.

Take Starbucks’ response to a highly publicized incident as an example. When a manager called the police on two Black men who were waiting for a business meeting, the situation blew up on social media with the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks trending.

Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, responded quickly with a sincere statement and apology, promising to do better. The company also closed thousands of stores for a day of racial bias training. By acknowledging the issue, taking responsibility, and implementing measures to rectify the situation, Starbucks was able to mitigate the damage to its reputation.

To effectively address negative feedback, it is important to create social media scripts and talk tracks around various scenarios, no matter how unlikely they may seem.

Train your team members on how to communicate with the media and provide them with clear guidelines on how to respond to inquiries. Maintaining transparency and authenticity in your communication is key to rebuilding trust and credibility which could save you months and thousands (or millions) of dollars.

Maintaining Transparency and Authenticity

“The key to success is sincerity. If you can fake that you’ve got it made.”

― George Burns

The above funny quote aside, transparency and authenticity are essential during a media crisis. Your brand’s response will significantly impact how it is perceived by the public and whether it can successfully navigate the crisis.

Show empathy, especially if someone has been harmed, and listen to feedback when it is given. If a deficit in your company has been highlighted, promptly create a plan to address it and follow through.

A smart and strategic communication plan, partnered with transparency and authenticity, will help you successfully navigate challenging situations and maintain a trustworthy reputation.

Proactive SEO and Content Strategy

An effective strategy to protect your brand from media crises is to optimize your online presence through search engine optimization (SEO) and a proactive content strategy.

By dominating search results with favorable content, you can often push down any negative or misleading information that may arise during a crisis.

Freshness is key. Regularly update your content to ensure that it remains relevant and engaging to both users and search engines. Of course, this is a post-crisis strategy for the most part. But a strong SEO presence can shield you from a lot of fallout before something bad happens in the media.

By consistently producing fresh and informative content, you can establish your brand as an authority in your industry and maintain a positive online reputation.

Diversifying Your Online Presence

Placing all your brand’s online presence in a single platform is risky. To fully harness the power of the first page of search results, it is important to diversify your online presence across multiple platforms and channels.

Social media, e-commerce sites, blogs, and industry-specific forums offer unique opportunities to connect with different segments of your target audience. By expanding your presence across various platforms, you not only increase your reach but also create a safeguard against potential platform-specific challenges or algorithmic changes.

Finally, encourage satisfied customers to share their positive experiences through reviews and testimonials – often by by using the more controllable gated review management strategy. These organic endorsements can help build a reservoir of goodwill that can be invaluable during a crisis.

Cultivating Strong Relationships with Media and Influencers

The lines between traditional news outlets, bloggers, and social media influencers have really blurred in the past decade. Cultivating relationships with these key players (influencers) is a great way to amplify your brand before a crisis.

Building bridges of trust and understanding during calm times ensures that when challenges arise, you already have open lines of communication and goodwill in place.

Collaborating with influencers on positive stories and campaigns amplifies your brand’s message, reaching audiences authentically and relatable. By leveraging the power of influencers, you can shape public perception and reinforce your commitment to genuine engagement and community-building.

Regularly Training and Educating Your Team

Internal alignment is crucial for effective crisis communications. Regularly train and educate your team members on the company’s values, messaging, and crisis response procedures. Conduct mock exercises and role-playing scenarios to prepare your team for potential crises. This practice helps identify vulnerabilities and areas of improvement, ensuring that your team is prepared to handle any challenge that may arise. By cultivating a well-trained and cohesive team, you can respond swiftly and effectively during a media crisis, protecting your brand’s reputation.

And so…

Protecting your brand from media crises requires a proactive approach and a comprehensive strategy. You can mitigate the risks associated with media crises by identifying potential threats, monitoring your brand’s online presence, addressing negative feedback, maintaining transparency and authenticity, and implementing proactive SEO and content strategies. Diversifying your online presence, cultivating relationships with media and influencers, monitoring your brand’s online sentiment, engaging with your audience, and preparing a crisis response plan are also crucial steps in protecting your brand’s reputation. Regular training and education ensure that your team is prepared to handle any crisis that may arise. By following these guidelines, you can safeguard your brand’s reputation and confidently navigate media crises.

Citations and Further Reading


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