A reputation crisis happens when a brand is facing a serious threat to their reputation.

With cancel culture upon us, reputation crises may not arise from your brand’s unfortunate interaction but from also your representative’s comment that may have nothing to do with your organization.

In this climate, every business investing in building a recognizable brand should keep the almost inevitable risk of reputation crisis in mind.

Every single business has unhappy clients from time to time, or official representatives that may leave a rude comment.

It is how you manage the situation that will help you get out of it safely and hopefully even benefit from it.

Here’s how to create a process helping you predict a reputation cruising before it happens and thus get better prepared for it.

1. Listen to your customers

An effective customer relationship management strategy is the strong foundation for predicting and quickly handling a customer-driven reputation crisis.

This obvious steps is commonly missed by many:

  • Keep an eye on your business reviews online (especially if you are local business or a SaaS solution)
  • Keep an eye on your support tickets to be aware of any unhappy customers that may not have their problems solved effectively enough
  • Collect customer feedback using conversational forms or on-site surveys
  • Use social media listening to know what your customers are discussing online and whether there’s any negative sentiment you need to deal with

A solid customer relationship management process includes:

  • A good CRM solution allowing you to capture relationship history with every customer and assign tasks for effective problem solving
  • Well-designed process for information exchange within your company (more on this below)
  • Integrated marketing solutions allowing everyone in the company to be aware of what is going on (for example, an angry comment caught on social media should quickly reach your customer support team)

Furthermore, according to the recent branding stats, 73 percent of consumers love a brand because of helpful customer service. Your customer relationship management strategy is not actually about being able to address customers’ concerns. It’s also about nurturing brand advocates who will be happy to jump in a thread and prevent a reputation crisis by sharing their positive experience with your business.

Social media listening is also helpful for monitoring your own company’s digital footprint and identifying possible problems and fixes.

2. Listen to your competitor’s unhappy customers

You are probably monitoring your competitors’ rankings and brand mentions already but are you keeping a close eye on their unhappy customers?

Knowing what triggers their customers into going public with their frustration is gold allowing you to prevent the same mistakes and repercussions.

Twitter is the only platform that supports emotional search and monitoring. All you need is to search for your competitor’s brand name and then, followed by a space, a “:(“

You can combine several competitors and product names by using OR operator:

Competitor1 OR Competitor2 OR Competitor3 🙁

3. Watch global trends

Keep an eye on the world’s trends to be aware of those that may impact your company’s product positioning.

Too many brands are vanishing from the face of the world, simply because they failed to timely grasp where the world was heading. For example, Campbell’s Soup never reacted to a global trend of limiting sodium intake. As a result, it is quickly turning into a failed brand.

Red Bull

Another example of brands not listening to global trends well enough is Red Bull’s surf sharing ads that came in the midst of the pandemic when people around the world were discouraged from flooding public beaches. The ad was criticized as untimely. Even though the brand never reacted to the criticism, the surfboard sharing program was put on hold.

Geico

Geico went through even worse critique when it was forced to pull the “Perfect High Five” commercial that was launched during the pandemic contradicting the social distancing recommendations.

Victoria Secret

Another example is Victoria Secret failing to recognize the body positivity movement and launching the “Perfect Body” campaign that was met with pushback. The company issued a public apology and changed the ad to feature more diverse body types.

Being on top of trends and current sentiment helps brands avoid these mistakes.

Keeping an eye on current trends is especially important if you are marketing on such fast-moving platforms like TikTok where it is too easy to become irrelevant.

Being aware of what is going on in the world (and where it may be heading) is a good way to be able to predict and prevent a social media crisis.

Additionally, knowing what is going on in the world and educating yourself on what is no longer (or currently) acceptable to say is key to maintaining a positive public profile.

The world is changing fast. What was absolutely fine to say 10 years ago may be absolutely impermissible today.

This takes continuous education to be aware of new rules of conduct. No matter your (or your employee’s) age, you just cannot live by the rules which existed 5 or ten years ago.

Harvard Business Review gives a great overview of what we are dealing with these days and how to overcome communication challenges by continuously questioning yourself and doing some research before saying something in public.

There’s no easy way to address current trends in your company’s public communication strategy but some basic principles always apply:

  • Make a pause: Taking time to identify your feelings and consider your responses
  • Always keep the company’s goals in mind: It is not about you, personally, so no need to get threatened or defensive
  • Question yourself: Whenever you are commenting on a social media thread, always ask a question if your comment may seem rude or offensive.
  • Ask for a second opinion: Simply ask a coworker if your message or comment may offend anyone. Seeking to validate your own opinion is a good way to get a different (possibly more up-to-date) perspective.

4. Talk to your team (and listen to them)

Finally, proper information exchange within your company is fundamental to dealing with any reputation issues.

Make sure your whole team is aware of your product positioning and desired brand perspective you are trying to achieve. Hosting regular branding workshops will help your whole company to be on the same page when it comes to your branding strategy and encourage opinion sharing.

Using corporate wellness assessments will also help your business to evaluate areas of improvement for your company’s well-being.

Removing organizational silos and encouraging information sharing is fundamental to creating a proper crisis prevention strategy.

For example, if your customer support team is seeing some signs of possible public negativity coming, they need to promptly make the social media team aware and share the important context behind the problem. This way they will collectively come up with the best way to address negative comments and promptly prevent a crisis.

Conclusion

As they say, forewarned is forearmed.

Seeing a possible reputation management crisis coming means having enough time to create an effective crisis management plan. 

Additionally, the ideas above will help you identify possible reputation issues coming and prevent a crisis from happening. Good luck!


Ann Smarty is the Founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

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