We live in an ‘instant’ society today – times that are dominated by everything ‘instant’. The social media is a constant presence and ‘breaking news’ is a norm.
It’s common to see people or organisations that are in the public glare, trying to restore their reputation. There are instant scandals that spring up on Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes, some people literally throw the towel in, to help restore their reputation. Whether it’s a Bollywood actor like Salman Khan or a Hollywood actress like Lindsay Lohan or even an organisation – like Nestle, the cola companies or Air India – they have all worked at refurbishing their brand’s perception.
Yes, Public Relations can restore your reputation!
Since PR professionals work to gain exposure and help enhance their clients’ reputation, PR seems to be the perfect solution.
How do you refine a tarnished reputation?
- Prepare an internal PR strategy
For organisations, the first step in repairing reputation should occur internally. A company must admit mistakes and be truthful with its employees. Employees are an essential part of your PR team. WorldCom, for example, did poor internal damage-control, and the results included – press leaks and low worker morale. To help boost employee morale, be honest. It is important to meet employees – to outline what’s happening. Written communication may be avoided, as these may leak to the media.Prepare an internal public relations strategy, outlining the different steps. Without effective internal communication, damage control is impossible – and the tarnish will remain.
- Check the legal angle
Obviously, you must consider matters of legal liability before speaking to the media, and this is why the legal angle will become an important focus in your PR strategy. If your scandal involves legal problems, it is imperative that you work with lawyers to devise acceptable content for all external communications (print or verbal).
- Try to work with media
The media plays an important role in a company’s damage control because they become the chief messenger. In times of crisis, a company shouldn’t try to manipulate the media when its credibility is already at an all-time low. What the company needs to do, is reinforce its message, so it continually reaches the company’s key audience(s).
- Definitely issue an apology
People/companies get into trouble or do something wrong and they apologize to the public. It’s critical that the apology should be sincere, and should not be misconstrued as ‘fake’ or forced. It’s important to address the public and show utmost sincerity for your actions.It may mean making a public appearance and expressing genuine regret.A great example is when golf star Tiger Woods issued an apology after his 2009 scandal and he took to CNN to issue an apology. Perhaps, it did look sincere at the time, but he did made the right move – owning up to his actions in person. Now, many years later, his image may not be fully restored, but it’s certainly regained some of its credibility!
- Avoid trouble and act right!
May seem like an obvious solution to a problem, but it is difficult! Sometimes, the best way to gain forgiveness is to keep a low profile, and let time take its course. “Time heals everything” is a rightly said popular expression, and very often, time is a great leveler. Importantly, crisis planning could help here.Well, that is not always the case. Even when an opportunity arises, and people have the chance to do the right thing, they make a wrong choice (or decision)! Within the context of PR , to enhance one’s reputation, we must be aware of current events, and understand the culture surrounding them.
Because scandals often involve legal vs illegal hassles, it may be difficult for most companies to “come clean”. This is an important point as far as media, customers and employees are concerned. But, companies should know that eventually the public will get exposed to the whole story.
Companies and individuals can recover from scandals, and the lost reputation may be restored at some point. Former US President Bill Clinton, famous for his Presidential affair, is today Founder, Clinton Foundation, which has changed peoples’ perception about him. This is seen as the result of post-scandal PR, which has brought about a behavioral change. And that, more than anything, can also help a company repair its reputation and restore some lost lustre.