Navigating a severe reputational crisis is a nightmare for any PR manager. It can be anything, from a data breach to a failed promotional campaign and employee-related issues. Due to social media sites, such crises become more frequent as even a minor adverse event can snowball into a large-scale scandal. If handled the wrong way, the company’s reputation might be seriously damaged.
Sometimes entire industries suffer, as is the case with payday loans. It’s unfair since even emergency lenders with an excellent reputation like GetCash usually come to the rescue when other solutions aren’t available. Anyway, while saving the reputation of the whole niche would be a Herculean task, clearing the name of a separate company, big or small, is fairly doable, especially if you follow a set of golden rules outlined below.
Steps in advance
The best strategy is to prepare for any unforeseen catastrophes in advance. However, it doesn’t mean that draft statements must be already approved and ready to be released when the time comes.
Create positive content about your brand
What do users get to see when they google your company? Invest in SEO to make sure that at least the first page of the google search shows nothing but your own websites, social media accounts, external publications, and customer reviews where your company is presented in a good light. If something terrible happens, your SEO-optimized pages that have earned the trust of Google will be able to shield your customers/users from any negative news about your company.
Decide who will be responsible for dealing with PR crises
If the right response team has been designated beforehand, a reputational issue will be effectively solved before it gets out of hand. Nothing is more crucial than a timely response when a reputational crisis occurs.
Monitor social media
Constantly monitor social media and handle communication with customers regularly. A few valuable tools might give you data-driven insights on any social media trends related to your company, allowing you to take timely measures and avoid an absolute scandal.
When something has already happened
What if an adverse event has caught you off guard, and you need to prevent the news from spreading like wildfire right away?
Choose a strategy and instruct your employees
In most cases, honesty is the best option. Leaving no comments or saying that someone else is to blame for the incident aren’t the best approaches. However, it doesn’t make sense to make a statement in a hurry either: if you change it later, the company’s reputation might be tainted. Gather all the details and brainstorm the most reasonable solutions. Inform your employees about the situation and let them know who is supposed to speak on the company’s behalf to make sure you present a unified front.
Keep tabs on your brand’s social mentions
Use monitoring systems that allow you to analyze the current situation in a flash. Armed with such valuable insights, you will be able to control the narrative of the scandal. Let your customers know that you do take into account their opinion. Make sure not a single negative comment is left unanswered by your response team.
Frame your statement
It depends on the incident, but, generally, any attempts to place the blame on any third parties will bring about an increase in public outrage. If you’re at least indirectly responsible for the situation, genuinely apologize and admit that you were wrong. It won’t stop the blowback from an incident, but the chances that your company will emerge unscathed will be higher.
Connect with your customers
Show unprecedented transparency when communicating with your audience. Collaborate with them to find the optimal ways to fix the problem. Keep them in the loop about each step you take to mitigate the consequences, and the anger toward the company will gradually subside.
Put the customer first
Whatever it takes. Forget about money and place your customers first, as Johnson & Johnson did in 1982. The company wouldn’t remain reputable had it not recalled all its products after an unknown killer sneaked Tylenol capsules injected with cyanide onto the store shelves. It cost Johnson & Johnson millions of dollars, but many more deaths were prevented.