By Evan Nierman, Founder & CEO of Red Banyan, an international crisis communications firm, and author of Amazon bestseller Crisis Averted.
Crises are unpredictable and can cause lasting damage if the person or brand that’s affected doesn’t respond with purpose. It’s critical to have a plan in place to contain potential harm. How you react will determine if you will weather the storm or sink with your ship.
If you don’t have a PR strategy in place for 2022, it’s time to prepare one for the new year. The best way to combat a reputation crisis is to have a plan in place before you need one. Planning is the key to successful crisis mitigation and will ensure you come out on top. Bad news travels fast so reacting with speed is essential if your reputation is threatened.
When disaster strikes, time is of the essence. Knowing what is necessary to contain a brewing crisis can save time, contain misinformation and provide an opportunity to shape the narrative in a way that is most favorable to you. Reacting to someone else’s version of the facts is never the best scenario. Be the one to tell your story in your way and you will retain control of your reputation and your brand’s good name.
Here are six tips for containing a reputation crisis.
1. Identify Areas Of Risk
Where is your reputation vulnerable? Protect your reputation by monitoring social media or setting up alerts that will tip you off to problems that are percolating. Review the kind of crises that have previously cropped up in related industries and take preventative measures so you do not experience the same.
2. Manage Your Social Media
I’ve written before about the importance of taking charge of your social media channels and keeping a close watch on comments that are made about you, your company or your brand. Respond to all posts, good or bad, and never assume criticism will disappear by ignoring it. Stakeholders need to know you are invested in your company’s reputation and care about what is being said online.
If a critic is unreasonable, despite your best efforts to resolve a problem, followers will be able to read the back-and-forth and see that your company is trying to resolve their concern. If an exchange becomes too dicey or complex, try taking the conversation offline to resolve the matter.
3. Invest In Media Training
Knowing what to say and how to say it during an interview is challenging in the best of times. Knowing how to effectively share your point of view during a crisis can be stressful and intimidating. Training and preparation are the keys to success when it comes to dealing with the media if you want to boost your confidence and assurance that the interview will help instead of hurt. Media training can help you speak more effectively, anticipate the “zinger” questions and teach you how to shape the narrative so you can share your point of view or story in the way that you want it to be told.
4. Conduct Mock ‘Disaster Drills’
Is your crisis PR team ready to jump into action at the drop of a hat? Conducting a dry run of your crisis response plan is an excellent way to find the gaps in your plan of action. Troubleshooting your crisis response plan before you experience a real crisis will enhance your state of readiness and identify gaps in leadership or preparedness. Do you know how you will contact company leaders, employees and outside stakeholders in an emergency? If you don’t have a plan in place, a disaster drill will highlight your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t wait for the real thing to find out what works and what doesn’t.
If a crisis occurs, make sure you communicate clearly and regularly with company leaders, employees and all other stakeholders. A small problem can quickly morph into a full-blown crisis if the involved parties don’t know what is going on or what is being done to mitigate the problem. Maintaining open lines of communication will help your organization maintain trust with its key stakeholders. Crises happen. How you handle one could determine if your company fumbles or uses the opportunity to come out stronger.
6. Be Truthful
Always be honest with customers, investors and the like. Customers value transparency and authenticity in the public eye. If you made a mistake, own up to it and move on. If your track record is solid and you have a strong foundation, stakeholders may be willing to accept your explanation and remain a supporter if you move forward with honesty and integrity.
Preserving your hard-won reputation in a crisis can be tricky, but if you have a plan to control the rumors and press the truth, you will be one step ahead of the game. Don’t wait until disaster strikes. The best way to survive an attack on your reputation is to formulate a crisis response plan before you need one.