Every business owner knows that running a company can be a rewarding endeavor, both personally and financially. But even the best companies hit rough waters, and sometimes there’s little you can do to avoid it. So when things go awry, it’s important to have a recovery game plan in your back pocket.
Repairing your company’s image is crucial to re-establishing credibility and protecting your name for the future. If you know how to do it properly, then the process can be easier than you might think. Incfile spoke with industry and PR experts about how to repair a business’s reputation after a crisis to gather some insight for handling common issues you might face.
Assess the Damage and Get Feedback
Before you respond to a crisis, it’s important to take a step back and assess the situation. Gennady Litvin, an attorney at Moshes Law Firm, suggests that “things may not be as bad as you think.”
Litvin believes that checking social media is one of the best ways to gather a clear idea of how bad the damage really is: "Collect data concerning what their customers think about them. The next step is to work out the reputation repair strategy, using social media as a feedback instrument." With so much online activity happening on social media platforms, this can provide a broader picture of the situation.
While it can be a good idea to react quickly to a crisis, sometimes you need to assess the damage before making any decisions. Only once you understand the bigger picture and the extent to which your business’s reputation has been impacted can you “implement a new strategy to make things right,” Litvin says. Rational and informed responses and decisions are what will fare better in the long term.
One of the first things a business should do in a crisis is own up to any mistakes and accept responsibility. This can show that you’re sincere, honest and actively taking feedback on board, which are signs of a credible company.
Brian Meiggs, founder of My Millennial Guide, says that apologizing can be one of the best ways to turn your image around with customers and re-establish integrity.
“Make sure your apology is sincere instead of transparently self-serving,” Meiggs suggests. This might mean offering an apology both in public and in private. “Some customers may appreciate an email or phone call from a representative who truly sounds sorry and offers a solution,” Meiggs says. While this isn’t necessarily foolproof for all crises, it can help retain some customers and turn your image around much sooner.
Stay Engaged on Social Media
As we all know by now, social media is a very powerful tool, with nearly 50 percent of global internet users ages 25-34 visiting social networks when researching a brand. A business's reputation and image can be made or broken on social media, which means it should be a major part of your damage control strategy.
Chary Otinggey, a PR and Reputation Specialist at Thrive Agency, offered several steps to repairing a brand’s reputation and recommends utilizing social media in your business’s response across all stages. She says:
Apologize. Owning up to the mistake makes your brand look more real. It only shows that people working behind it are still people who are vulnerable to mistakes.
Respond. Research and take action to correct the issue.
Observe. Look for feedback. Search for good reviews and use them to give your company a positive image again.
Use social media. This will broaden the reach of people when addressing the issue. You may also reply or acknowledge comments and reactions to the official statement.
Monitor Your Online Reputation
Paige Arnof-Fenn, CEO of Mavens & Moguls, offers a unique PR perspective when it comes to reducing the likelihood of a reputation crisis and how to protect your business in the future.
With social media being here to stay in the business world, Arnof-Fenn recommends monitoring your online reputation and data on a regular basis. “At least set up a Google Alert for your company’s name and your own name to notify you any time your name is mentioned or you are indexed by Google,” Arnof-Fenn suggests.
This way you can stay on top of your online reputation. “It’s best to know what digital dirt exists on you so you do not get blindsided or surprised when people check you out online,” says Arnof-Fenn. By measuring and monitoring your business’ image, you can develop a stronger response strategy and implement damage control before things get out of hand.
While it’s important to care what people think and say, Arnof-Fenn explains that it’s always better to underpromise and overdeliver if you want to ensure a credible and reputable business over the test of time.
In the end, there's a myriad of ways to mitigate a crisis. You're never out of options, and heeding the advice of those who have gone through similar scenarios can be a good way forward. When strategizing damage control, remember to engage with your social media followers, publicize an official statement addressing the issue and demonstrate a mature response. Maintaining engagement and activity on social media is essential for broadening your reach when addressing an issue or crisis and, ultimately, repairing your reputation.
Jenna Scatena is a writer and content strategist with a love for stories that have never been told before. More than a decade of working with prominent magazines and brands informs her approach to impactful storytelling. Her stories have reached more than 30 million readers, won multiple awards and been anthologized in books. Jenna's work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, Marie Claire, The San Francisco, BBC and The Atlantic. She's the founder of the editorial consultancy, Lede Studio.