Warren Buffet once said something to the effect of, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and just five minutes to ruin it.” While the exact figures are obviously used for illustrative purposes, the point remains: A single mistake or negative external factor can cause your brand to come crashing down if you don’t have a plan.
Survive a PR Crisis With These 3 Tips
We live in a marketplace and society that’s becoming increasingly hostile. For all the good that the internet and social media have done for business, they’ve also given individual customers and groups a platform. And even when the statements they make and initiatives they push are categorically false and unfounded, their newfound reach has the ability to permanently damage the brands they attack.
From a public relations (PR) perspective, here are some smart reputation management tips for surviving and thriving, regardless of outside factors.
- Respond Quickly
When a PR crisis hits, a lot of brands think the best plan of action is to sit back and wait things out. The sentiment is often that time has a way of lessening the impact of a particularly heavy blow. However, in most cases, this is a detrimental mistake.
Take something serious like sex abuse claims – something an uncanny number of religious organizations have, unfortunately, faced over the past few years. From a legal perspective, attorney John Kaempf is clear that a quick response is crucial. From a PR perspective, swift action is equally as necessary. The more you can get ahead of a story, the more you can control the narrative and get your version out there.
- Humanize the Brand
In most PR crises, there’s a relatable victim on the other end. In a sex abuse situation, there’s an abused individual. In an environmental catastrophe, there’s a local community that’s been affected. In a political misstep, there are passionate citizens who feel wronged. Unfortunately, this often creates a situation where the public views the crisis as Big Corporation vs. Little Guy.
The longer you let your brand be viewed as a corporation, the worse things will get for you. It’s imperative that you humanize your brand and show the public that your business is made up of individual people who are just like them.
“Select either the CEO or your best corporate spokesperson and brand them across all social media channels,” business executive Patrick Vogt advises. “Market capital flows from high social capital, and an authentic company spokesperson who talks about strategy and direction will build confidence with customers.”
- Don’t Lose Your Cool
Your business is your baby. When someone attacks your brand with claims and accusations, it’s easy to feel offended and become defensive. Sadly, this typically exacerbates the underlying problem and makes your brand look guilty and combative.
In order to effectively fight a PR crisis, you must avoid losing your cool. The calmer you stay, the more poised your brand will come across in the marketplace. Using this even-keeled demeanor, you can then put out the fire with water (as opposed to more fire).
Build Reputation Equity
As a business, you should anticipate sunny days while taking steps to prepare for the occasional storm. While you can’t always predict when a PR crisis will come, you can do your brand a favor by building up reputation equity.
Reputation equity is simply the amount of positive rapport you have in the marketplace. The more positive your reputation, the more lenient and forgiving people will be when a crisis does happen. Take this to heart and remember that reputation management is a 24/7/365 responsibility.