Reputation damage is a risk for all those in the public eye and is almost unavoidable for any individual or organisation with a global, online or even high street presence. The current socio-economic and political climate across the globe has become volatile and anyone with the slightest amount of public presence, is prone to scrutiny. Thanks to the rise of social media and the conscious and responsible consumer, brands, more than ever, are walking a tight rope. From advertisements, corporate announcements, employee relations to even philanthropy and the personal conduct of brand spokespeople, can become a stimulus to provoke different sections of the society.
Crisis is inevitable but not impossible to handle. Reputation recovery is a sub-specialty within reputation management, and employees a customised and integrated communication approach to not just handle an ongoing crisis but to also re-build credibility after the crisis. Although recovery from a reputation crisis is not simple and takes time, a holistic communication approach, based on these 7 points, can speed up the recovery process:
- Consistent communication: This is one of the most important factors, both during and after the crisis. While communication during the crisis is more focused and measured, the recovery time communication is meant to be more futuristic in nature and assuring. Most brands/ people would refrain from communicating with stakeholders immediately after the crisis is over, and take a ‘silent’ approach for a while. However, this is not always a good approach. Communicating effectively and with relevant messaging post crisis, is a sign of confidence, resilience and transparency – factors that play a major role when trying to re-build trust. One can speak about way forward after the crisis, future plans, any change in company structure or even resume the pre-crisis communication strategies, so as to move focus to the positive brand offerings which may not have been affected by the crisis.
- Engagement with internal stakeholders: The most important set of audience for every business are the internal stakeholders. Employees, vendors, partners and investors play a major role in the post-crisis recovery from both, the actual crisis and reputation damage. Brands need to take up consistent and relevant engagement with staff and partners, sharing the overall impact of the crisis, informing them of the way forward, and the preventive steps planned so as to avoid a recurrence of the previous misfortune. This helps to again build trust and loyalty that can be extremely valuable when overcoming a setback.
- Engagement with external stakeholders: This is another vital aspect of post crisis reputation recovery. While the actual crisis may have been put to rest, a post crisis conversation with external stakeholders like supportive financial institutions, PE investors, business associations and regulators etc., is important so as to keep them abreast of the constructive business plans and build trust. With relevant and impactful messaging, this can help accelerate the overall reputation recovery process, ensure support and build the morale of internal stakeholders, to bounce back.
- Show strong leadership: During the time of crisis it crucial for the brand to show a strong leadership quality. Through effective messaging and positive talk points, a proactive communication outreach can showcase leadership qualities in the brand spokesperson – something important when looking to rebuild a reputation. Putting a face to the brand showcases the willingness to take ownership and responsibility, to set things right.
- Focus on the Positive: When trying to recover from a crisis and to build reputation, it is important to showcase whatever little that has been going right for the brand. This helps to not only shift the focus from a negative past but also helps create hope and a positive sense of anticipation for a better future. From communication around increased/ resumed manufacturing facilities, revival of regular business processes, expansion plans, launching a new product or services in the market etc., can help both internal and external stakeholders and consumers at large, to start building trust and appreciate the effort put by the brand in the post crisis business recovery.
- Robust influencers’ engagement: While the above are all hygiene reputation recovery steps, nothing spells speedy reputation recovery like a strategic influencer engagement campaign. These could be business thought leaders and policy makers or paid marketing influencers. Depending on the nature of crisis, strong, relevant and impactful influencer engagement can help enhance the brand’s positive visibility, build trust and help shift the focus from the crisis to the way forward. In the long run, this also means creating a strong and supportive network of influencers who can be helpful in the face of any future crisis.
- Endorsement: Last but not the least, nothing speaks of reputation recovery more than a third party that is respected by stakeholders, endorsing a brand or a spokesperson. It could mean a statement from the chairman and/or the family patriarch who founded the business, a delighted customer, a supportive vendor or partner and in some cases, celebrity consumers. Their endorsement of the brands progress in crisis recovery, faith in the way forward and the speed of resuming regular business post crisis, for example, could be a sign of positive endorsement that can further help build the brand reputation.
Rebuilding a reputation after a crisis takes a solid strategy, strong commitment, determination and will to succeed. In today’s highly competitive world, being genuine, open, transparent and trustworthy is more important to survive and earn consumer trust. While a reputation crisis can temporarily damage this, the above mentioned steps can help ensure a speedy recovery and a long term, solution oriented approach to managing major and minor crisis.
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