What is Reputation Management?
Reputation management is a long-term process. It is the strategy; not the objective. The objective is to safeguard and enhance reputation by managing the good, capitalizing on good performance and behaviors and, the bad, preventing vulnerabilities from descending to crises. “Reputation” is the net result of the good and the bad perceptions of the organization held by the stakeholders. Those relationships and perceptions are managed through a reputation management and communications plan focusing on the reputation asset.
For decades, CEOs around the world described reputation as their “most important asset.” Yet, they did not institute a process, a plan, to measure, monitor and manage reputation because reputational benefits, being intangible, could not be quantified or managed. It has now been firmly established that the reputation asset, though intangible, produces significant, tangible benefits. If it is still cannot be managed perfectly, at least, it can be a managed well.
How Do We Manage Reputation?
Anyone who has worked in public relations, corporate communications or other areas of professional communications knows that most communicators tend to default to tactics first, instead of objectives and/or strategies. The problem with that approach is: If you do not know where you arere going, any road will get you there and you might end up in the wrong place. Communicators and other leaders often forget where they are going because they do not pinpoint their destination and path in advance.
Most large corporations today have Risk Management Officers, who generally manage financial and legal risks only, the equivalence of charting half the journey. Similarly, most large communication firms list reputation management among their services, but only measure and monitor reputation. That is like the difference between a SWOT analysis and a communications or reputation management plan. The former describes strengths and weaknesses but prescribes no solutions; the latter sets objectives, strategies, budgets, timetables and so on. Today, many organizations focus on building expertise in crisis management and crisis communications because they have no choice; leaders and communications professionals often default to crisis management because they live the crisis.
Someday soon, business, and organizational leaders will look at the fondness for crisis communication, often at the expense of reputation planning and management. They will realize it is a lack of vision, of being unable to see the intangible. Only then will reputation management become a corporate strategy, a long-term process, the cost of which will be seen as a necessary infrastructure expense, a cost of doing business.
Prepare for crisis now
Unflattering images, fake news, divisive social movements, are the reasons behind the soaring up demand for having a crisis management plan at your fingertips. Today, in this digital era, you cannot deny the importance of reputation management: at least 60% of your company’s market value is dependent on its online reputation and at least 50% of consumers only buy products and services from a company that makes them feel happy. Denying these facts can lead you to a reputation crisis. A crisis occurs when the situation gets out of your control, and you suffer from poor reputation management.
What is Reputation Crisis?
Reputation crisis is the situation where an organization faces severe damages due to a wretched reputation. It is like an operational crisis where an organization’s revenue-generating process becomes challenging. It can occur due to multiple reasons such as industrial accidents, product damages, etc. In operational crises, the stakeholders’ safety becomes the major concern.
A reputation crisis poses minute risks to stakeholders’ safety. For example, if a group of people complains against your organization stating its irresponsible behaviors, and the scenario gets attraction from top journalists, social media users, then it is a crisis in reputation for that organization. If the stakeholders too perceive the company as irresponsible and publicly charge for its irresponsibility, then it is seriously destructive to its reputation.
The Difference Between a Reputation Crisis and Para-crisis
Most people cannot distinguish between these two situations as both are connected and the procedures are almost the same to manage both the situations. However, if the situation is clearly damaging an organization’s reputation, then it is a crisis. Wherein a para-crisis is the situation where your reputation holds the possibility to hit by a crisis but has not yet hit by it. You can prevent the destructive situation to come by having a proper crisis management plan.
A crisis does not occur over-night. It happens in three stages. Effective crisis management strategies can only be crafted once you are aware of the different stages of a reputation crisis.
It is a warning stage where you get the symptoms of a storm that can wash you off from the internet. Itis a stage where you’ve to analyze the situation and figure out the harmful areas to take necessary action. A crisis management plan helps you here to instantly take the suggested measures to come out of the risk zone.
Itis the stage you face if you are not taking the necessary measures in the pre-crisis stage. Acute crisis is the situation when your reputation crisis is clearly visible to other people as well and it can be your employee, colleagues, family members, etc. A Crisis management process should be activated in this stage to dismantle the situation quickly.
It is like the situation after an area gets hit by a cyclone. You try to cope with the losses, mental turbulence, and regaining the energy and efforts to come back with complete protection. In this stage often people face traumas and fears of getting hit by a reputation crisis again. You can hire reputation repair services to help you overcome the situation.
How Does a Crisis Impact Your Business?
The crisis can be of different type be it reputation crisis, natural disaster, or any other. But it impacts your business.
Once your organization gets hit by the crisis, the Internet will be flooded with negative news about you. People love to read fake news and henceforth Internet browsers always gives priority to these contents which people love to read. Only a well-crafted crisis management plan can help you out.
People will not bother to pay a visit or buy a product from your organization if you hit hard by a reputation crisis. This will bring down your overall revenue in a year. Your business operation might get disrupted during an acute crisis and, An since you will be hard hit to generate revenue, it will lead you to cut-off some staff. This further leads to escalated work stress and an increase in hiring costs.
How Do You Get Out of a Reputation Crisis Quickly?
- Gauge the Situation
The moment you notice the symptoms and potential threats to your organization’s reputation, analyze it rapidly. You should run a rapid analysis that includes,
- A thorough idea of the situation
- People who are involved
- How poorly is your reputation damaged?
- Is there a group of people fabricating fake news or just a single influential person?
- Does the media know it yet?
Once you analyze it, you will get an idea as to how to act on it
- Have a Conversation with Your Team Members
Your team members might have different opinions on crisis mitigation. But combining them can lead you to craft an unbeatable plan. Have a conversation with the stakeholders, team members, and other decision-makers to determine a plan.
- Identify the Trigger Points
In every organization, there are some areas that are vulnerable, and the situation can escalate from these areas. Your company holds value, and you cannot let a group of activists, national media, or a group of social media users ruin it overnight. Identify the trigger point and block these areas ASAP.
Reputation is the key to unlock the innumerable opportunities in this digital world, especially if you’re running a business. Reputation management is not an easy task to accomplish. Even a minute mistake can seriously damage your digital presence. It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently. This is an appropriate ideology and philosophy especially in this digital world where radical transparency is at its peak. You cannot ignore these digital voices to mitigate your risks.
A reputation crisis management plan can help in maintaining the alignment with both the brand’s reputation and customers’ expectations. Look at the ways to manage a reputation crisis,
- Listen to Your Customers
In the present day as people have more power in terms of submitting a review, complaining against a brands’ behavior, etc. Social chatters can reflect negatively on your brand if you do not listen to your consumers’ queries. The best part of a crisis management plan is that it picks up the early chatter on social media and end it right there before it starts impacting.
- Be Honest
Many companies have tried to remove the defamatory posts that they claimed false. But, removing all the complaints right off the internet does not do any good to your reputation. Top-class online reputation builder firms craft crisis management plan in a way that does not represent you as you are ignoring the problems. Rather, they craft a designed to make your customers feel that you care for them. It might be not easy to be upfront about your issues, but people respect ones honestly. Do not represent yourself or your brand as “perfect” but be honest and apologize if you have made a mistake.
- Respond Instantly and Politely
An instant response plays a key role in a reputation management crisis plan. Any professional reputation management agency would go a few extra miles by responding to the consumers instantly and politely. The way you craft your thoughts into words creates a huge difference in the way people perceive you. Your response shows how much you care for them, and it pays off.
- Keep Your Team Prepared
The secret to crisis management is not good vs. bad, it is preventing the bad for getting worse. The situation of a reputation crisis can occur anytime. So, it is always a great idea to keep your team prepared. Form a relevant team for crisis management and prepare them for handling any dangerous situation. This can help you from facing acute crisis in your reputation.
Once you hit hard by a reputation crisis, the recovery process might be time-consuming for some people, especially if you’re vulnerable. A reputation management expert is trained to assist you in these times to make you easily navigate through it. However, there are proactive strategies to deal with these after-effects of the crisis and cope with the emotional rollercoaster.
- Your Goals Should Be Attainable
Once you recover from the reputation crisis, never set an unattainable goal while crafting a reputation crisis management plan for the near future. Most of the people think that creating a fancy goal will shield you from a crisis attack. In the real world, it is not true and there are limitations. If you craft an unattainable goal, then the possible outcome will be your disappointment.
- Analyze the Previous Damage
Conduct a thorough analysis of the previous damage you’ve faced.
Most people overlook this step right after coming over a reputation crisis. This evaluation provides you with a baseline and the vulnerable areas of your reputation. This way, you can avoid possible future damages once you fix those areas.
- Be Steady While You’re Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster
The crisis in reputation is a personal ordeal that shows off publicly. And with each negative comment, troll, and rejected meetings, the vulnerability takes its peak. No matter how hard you’ve hit by the crisis, do not panic. Panic will be of no help; it will only make the situation worse. While you are riding the emotional rollercoaster, try to be patient and wait for the right time.
- Don Not Publicize Your Emotions on social media
After coming out of a reputation crisis, you might think that showing off your vulnerable state to gain sympathy from the web-users would be a good idea. This is a clear No; the worst idea you may have.
Social media is like a traditional way of transferring news from all over the world and using these profiles effectively, especially when you are a businessman or an eminent individual, takes strategy and planning. Do not involve in any social media fights while showing off your uncontrolled emotions. Instead, use these tools to share the situation you have faced and how you have come over it so that it adds value to others who are facing the same.
Map out Your Media Strategy
In some cases, media strategy is not necessary but, if your reputation crisis management plan included a media strategy planning, then it is time for you to craft another one to beat the future crisis. Having a plan at your fingertips will help you to prevent the minor mistakes you commit to media inquiries. Getting hit by a reputation crisis is not a situation to be panicked about. Instead, have an action plan in hand to implement it as quickly as you can and dismantle the situation.
J. Michael Dennis ll.l., ll.m.
Corporate Systemic Strategist