It’s often said that employees are a company’s most valuable asset. If so, then brand reputation is surely the second-most valuable asset. Reputation is something that takes years to build, but requires only the blink of an eye to be ruined. If your brand’s reputation has taken a hit for any reason, you can rest assured that it is indeed possible to recover, but it’ll take hard work, patience, and persistence.
Monitor your online reputation constantly.
Before you can control the conversation about your brand, you need to know what people are saying about you. It isn’t necessary to Google your business’ name several times per day. There are many online tools you can use to easily keep track of mentions of your company. Some of them, like Google Alerts, are free to use. Simply tell Google Alerts which keywords you’d like to stay informed of, and you’ll get emailed notifications whenever the search engine sees new content about those keywords. Other online reputation tools include the following:
- Social Mention
- Review Push
- Reputation Ranger (for specific niche industries only)
- Reputation Health (for physicians and medical practices only)
Develop a contingency plan before you need it.
Thanks to the Internet in general and social media in particular, it doesn’t take long for stories to spread these days. If your company is receiving negative press, you need to get on top of the situation immediately. This is easier if you already have a contingency plan in place. Your contingency plan should include the following:
- Protocols for reviewing and analyzing negative feedback and stories
- Decision-making guide for determining when to respond to negative feedback and when to let it die out on its own
- Procedures for keeping investors and stakeholders informed of the situation
- Guidelines and expectations for responses from company leaders/executives
Regarding the second point, it’s important to note that not all negative feedback will turn into a catastrophe. If a lone customer is complaining about your brand on a website that receives little to no traffic, then it’s probably better not to respond at all. If you do respond, you’ll only be drawing attention to the problem. But if negative press has gone viral, then you’ll definitely need to formulate a company response ASAP.
Get defamatory statements removed from websites.
There are many situations in which companies must accept responsibility, apologize, and explain how they will make the situation better moving forward. But occasionally, companies are beleaguered by defamatory statements. A defamatory statement is one that is both false and injurious to business or trade. Opinions do not count. As an example, consider the following statements:
- Non-defamatory statement: XYZ Bank has terrible interest rates.
- Defamatory statement (if false): Vicky’s Scarves and Sweaters uses child labor in third-world countries.
If your brand’s reputation is taking a hit because of defamatory statements online, it’s time to consult an attorney. An attorney may be able to contact the party directly with a cease and desist order. If the individual cannot be identified, the attorney may be able to make arrangements with the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to have the defamatory statement removed. If these two options fail, then a court order may be needed to get the defamatory statement removed.
Acknowledge truthful complaints or acts of wrongdoing.
Defamatory statements can be frustrating for companies, but what about complaints that have a ring of truth to them? And how should you handle it when your company has indeed engaged in an act of wrongdoing, whether legally problematic or not? It’s essential to jump right in and start controlling the conversation. The public face of the company, usually its CEO, needs to issue a public apology that acknowledges the problem, accepts responsibility for it, and pledges to do better in the future. Even better, the company’s leader should outline exactly what the brand will do to instill positive change moving forward. Otherwise, people might be skeptical that positive change will happen.
Here’s an example to consider. Remember when Domino’s launched TV ads that admitted customers thought its pizza crust tasted like cardboard and its sauce tasted like ketchup? The decision to do something so dramatic came in part because of a food safety scandal in 2009 that prompted the health department to shut down a Domino’s store. That marketing campaign was also born of consumer studies that revealed people liked the pizza less when they knew it was from Domino’s.
Domino’s acknowledged customer complaints, apologized, and asked for a second chance. They also fixed the source of the problem by making their pizzas taste better and making their marketing more transparent and authentic. The campaign worked, and people began buying Domino’s pizzas again.
Crowd out negative content with positive content.
Although it’s important to acknowledge mistakes and apologize for them, you don’t want the negative publicity associated with your brand on a long-term basis. After the initial, apologetic marketing campaign, you need to start building your company back up and giving it a positive image. You can do this by crowding out the negative content with positive content. Build up enough positive content on your website so that a search of your company will put that good stuff on the first page and relegate the negative coverage to subsequent pages.
You should also take advantage of all positive testimonials your brand receives. Put those positive testimonials in prominent places on your website and social media accounts. Actively solicit feedback from social media influencers and bloggers, such as by building a brand partnership with those figures. Depending on the nature of the brand’s misstep, you might also want to work on portraying your company culture in a positive light. For example, you could publicize photos that show your employees having a community service day. Rebuilding a brand’s reputation takes time and work, but it’s definitely possible to make a comeback.
Take a proactive approach toward your brand’s reputation by partnering with Pennington Creative. Our digital marketing specialists provide positive and engaging website and social media content your brand’s fans will love. Get in touch today to ask us about crafting a customized package of digital marketing solutions.