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Reputation Rescue

by Randall Craig on March 11, 2016

Filed in: Blog, Branding, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Social Media

Tagged as: , , ,

Have you ever been in a situation where your personal reputation has been called into question online?  Or your organization’s brand is under attack from a special interest group, and it is emerging somewhat battered?  Not good.
Of course, the best way to build a great reputation is to do everything “right” in the first place.  But no organization (or person) is perfect, and sometimes reputational attacks occur for no other reason than someone sees you as an easy target.
So how might you rescue your reputation?
  1. Come clean:  Particularly if there was fault, being transparent and compassionate can go a long way.  When this doesn’t happen, the naysayers will assume that you are either hiding something, or are insensitive.  The goal is to ensure that your reaction (or lack of action) does not become the issue.
  2. Fix:  If your reputational problem is because of an ongoing issue, fixing the issue is the only way to prevent continuous erosion. If the issue caused harm to a person or a group, fixing may also mean making it right in their eyes, possibly with compensation.
  3. Monitor:  The only way to solve a problem is if you know that the problem exists in the first place.  And who is behind the trouble, and where they are from.  Tools such as Google Alerts and Hootsuite can help, but time for a specific person to actually do the monitoring must be allocated.
  4. Bury the evidence: While people have short memories, Google does not.  So when people search online, and do not find your side of the story (e.g. the fact that you came clean and you fixed the underlying issue), people may assume the worst of you.  They may then add their voice to the mix on social media, further propagating the problem.  Burying the evidence means squeezing out the harmful posts by adding your own content.  How to do it? Ask friends/employees/members/ambassadors to post, add your perspective via your blog, and use a social media Anchors and Outposts strategy.
  5. Key stakeholder outreach:  While part of the rescue strategy may be broad-based communications (press releases, social media, etc), key stakeholders such as employees, clients, members, suppliers, partners, regulators, etc, deserve more.  Sharing information with them is the first step in engaging them to advocate on your behalf.  And for some, it is also a critical retention strategy.
  6. Redirect to the good: Sometimes a great defence is a strong offence.  This means propagating great brand stories, so that your audiences will see a more balanced you.  It may also mean starting more visible public initiatives, or aligning yourself with other, more positive brands or organizations. (More on Brand Transfer strategy.)
  7. Rebrand:  Sometimes your reputation can’t be salvaged, or the cost of salvaging the reputation is so great that it makes more sense to jettison the old name, and choose a new name with more strongly attached positive values.
  8. Make internal changes:  How might you prevent the lapse that caused the reputational injury from recurring?  The answer is accountability.  This may mean appointing someone responsible, as many organizations have done in the area of environmental responsibility.  Or it may also mean letting someone go – to signal that you are holding a person to account.
This week’s action item:  It is better, and far less stressful, when you are prepared.  This week, do a crisis rehearsal: how would you execute each of these steps?  What do you need to have in place now? And who else would you need to involve?
Marketing insight #1: While most organizations don’t have a reputational problem, and it might be tempting to file this Tipsheet in your crisis management folder, don’t.  While these steps are critical to rescue your reputation, they can also be used to make a good reputation great – especially when nothing is wrong.
Marketing insight #2:  An inconvenient truth about reputation: reputation is directly tied to the strength of an organization’s (or person’s) values.  If the values are poorly defined, if they are weak, or if they are not intrinsically adopted by each person within the organization, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the expression of that weakness is a weak reputation.  Strength on the outside requires strength on the inside.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to www.RandallCraig.com to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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About 

Randall has been advising on Web and Social Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail’s GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of seven books, including the recently released “Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business”, and speaks across North America on Social Media and Web Strategy. More at randallcraig.com and 108ideaspace.com.

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