When the crisis is over, there is a temptation to heave a sigh of relief and return to corporate normality. But there is much to do. Each such crisis has the potential to strike at the heart of an established brand, causing loss of customer trust.
Scandals and reputation crises have always occurred in businesses. The difference today is the speed with which a minor issue can escalate via social media or other digital platforms. It leaves those in charge of a company’s public image staggering from one attack to the next. You must rebuild a brand in those crucial days after the crisis occurs.
A successful crisis management public relations effort depends largely on developing a planned, integrated solution and a sustained communications approach. Regardless of which channel they use, brands must communicate quickly and effectively with their key constituents during a crisis.
That means understanding the best channels and targeting your message accordingly to help reduce the impact of the crisis on your brand and to minimize consumer backlash.
Here are (5) tips for companies to consider implementing both before and after a crisis; during efforts to rebuild customer loyalty.
1. Have a plan.
If you develop a strategy for post-scandal brand repair ahead of time, it’s much easier to execute that plan with calmness and confidence. That’s precisely the image your organization should project.
The plan should include round-the-clock monitoring of all online platforms where your business might be mentioned, and tactics for rapid response to any critical or negative postings.
2. Apologize sincerely.
After a crisis has occurred and it’s determined that your organization is at least partly to blame, don’t offer the kind of insincere and evasive apologies perfected by discredited politicians.
Your CEO or other credible spokesman must be able to say, “We’re truly sorry,” in a way that both members of the news media and consumers find acceptable.
A sincere apology and promise not to repeat the mistake can generate significant public goodwill.
3. Create alternative content
What happens after a crisis occurs? Anyone searching Google for information about that organization will encounter negative stories first.
The best counter-strategy is to do everything possible to raise positive stories in your search-engine results page. Here are a few ideas:
• Revise your company page on Wikipedia to emphasize notable achievements and other upbeat facts.
• Add new details to your company’s social media profile on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms.
• Create blog post content highlighting positive news about the company and industry.
• Encourage loyal customers to feature use of your product through YouTube videos.
4. Repair employee trust.
After a crisis, brand managers are understandably focused on regaining the trust of customers. However, it’s important not to overlook an equally important constituency—a company’s workforce.
News that makes an organization look bad affects employees, too. That can lead to low morale, decreased productivity and a challenge to recruit and retain talented employees in the future.
Reach out to your team the following ways:
• Acknowledge that the employer/employee bond has been violated.
• Encourage CEO visibility in the workplace and answer employees’ questions as thoroughly as possible.
• Pledge to be completely transparent in all post-crisis internal communications.
• Offer guidance to employees on how they should respond if contacted by the media.
Taking these actions will help repair the broken trust and even revive employees’ willingness to stand behind their organization’s brand-repair efforts.
5. Reach out to rebuild reputation
After a crisis, stakeholders will be re-evaluating their opinions of the organisation, which in turn affects its wider reputation. Reputations that have been built over many years can be severely challenged or destroyed in a small number of days.
Rebuilding trust and recovering reputation can take time: months or even many years depending on the severity of the reputation and the strength of stakeholder feeling. This means that reaching out to stakeholders becomes even more important.
For example; MTN Uganda came out to clear the air following numerous complaints from customers about the cost of its data services. In a recent interview with journalists, Christopher Ssali, the head of technical team MTN mobile money; advised users to limit the number of applications that use mobile data through their settings and also to always consider switching off their data when not in use.
The most important part of reputation recovery is in proving that performance is once again meeting expectations. Reputation is in delivery, not promise. So the best way to recover, it is to get delivering again. This is therefore about far more than communications: it is about showing more than telling.
How can we show that our products or services are high-quality despite the setback that led to the recall? How can we show that senior management is steering the organisation in the right direction despite the public failings of some executives (or their predecessors)? How can we show our safety commitment is real and substantive despite the terrible accident?
But this does not mean there is no room for communications in a recovery based on substance and action. Just as with crisis management, the trick is in showing and telling while you are doing. This will mean getting the right messages with the right proof points into many communications with many stakeholders – external and internal.