As digital technology has evolved to make our lives easier in countless ways, there is one area in which innovations such as social media and live-streaming video have created incredible challenges: corporate reputation management.
Today, the frequency of high-profile corporate crises is higher than ever. In the last 10 years, the number of headline-making crises in a given year has risen by more than 80 percent for corporations.
When a negative incident occurs at your organization, you can bet it’s going to make the rounds on internet news and social media sites with incredible speed. This makes it challenging to effectively manage your company’s reputation, particularly if it operates in a high-profile industry or deals directly with consumers.
A negative news story, damaging video, harsh customer review, or employee slip-up could be shared and commented on hundreds or even thousands of times before your organization is even aware of it. And by the time this type of story has made the rounds online, it’s too late for your team to effectively respond in a way that will protect the company’s reputation.
Improving Reputation Management
For crisis communication professionals, effective reputation management involves getting ahead of a story so you can guide the dialogue as much as possible. Not only will a proactive approach help you to stay on top of crises as they evolve, but it will also make managing your image a whole lot easier.
The fast-moving nature of today’s crises means you need to stay agile and get creative. Within your organization, this might mean leveraging technology to help you keep an eye on potential crises, getting more proactive on social media, and/or training executives on how to interact with the news media.
Let’s take a look at a few unexpected tips for reputation management that will help to make your job easier:
1. Flood the internet with positive content.
Establishing a strong presence on social media, in a robust corporate website, on blogs, and in trade publications not only raises consumer awareness of your brand, it also gives you a chance to readily move on from negative incidents.
When public accidents or crises happen, acknowledge them quickly, admit any mistakes, and then keep churning out positive information to encourage people to move on from it. Highlight new products, write a feature on a customer success story, talk up the organization’s charitable activities—whatever you can do to push a negative story off the first page of Google results and out of people’s minds.
2. Connect with consumers to solve problems.
Sometimes when a crisis strikes, it takes a village to make things right. In certain industries, maintaining a positive corporate reputation in the wake of a problem means looping your customers in on everything that’s happening—and perhaps even asking their help in fixing the issue.
This is something that Gitlab, a software development firm, did well during a recent crisis. An employee accidentally deleted client data from its server, including intellectual property of organizations such as NASA, IBM, Sony, and Alibaba. The accident impacted thousands of clients and projects worth billions of dollars. But the firm’s handling of the crisis is one to remember.
Gitlab fessed up to the problem immediately, told its clients exactly what happened and what it planned to do, and then kept its audience constantly updated. Then, it collaborated with its customers and the broader software developer community to figure out how to fix the problem. This rare level of transparency helped to mitigate anger toward the company, ensuring that its reputation wasn’t irreparably damaged by a single mistake.
3. Manage executives’ online reputations too.
Many high-profile organizations are surprised to discover how much of an impact the reputation of their leadership can have on the company itself. Remember how Uber’s founder and former CEO, Travis Kalanick, was criticized for his management style and the corporate culture he enabled—as well as countless personal slip-ups?
Coaching your executives on responding to a crisis is a must. But it’s also important that your team manages their reputations online. These days, keeping a low profile is no longer an option. In many cases, it’s best to be proactive by establishing each exec’s online presence.
They can maintain their own personal social media accounts, which should be kept private, while you help them cultivate their public presence through public Facebook and Twitter accounts, website bios, interviews, and more. This will help you ensure that you and your team can safeguard each exec’s reputation and ensure it adds to, rather than detracts from, that of the organization as a whole.
4. Leverage technology to keep everyone on the same page.
One surefire way to worsen a crisis is to present an un-unified front. Let’s say you’ve planned for the next digital crisis, and you have draft statements pre-approved and ready to go. Unfortunately, when the crisis strikes, one of your executives decides to give an interview in which she “shoots from the hip” instead of sticking to the agreed-upon language.
This type of slip-up has the power to derail your crisis response, as well as damage your corporate reputation. When people hear varying stories from an organization, it starts to feel untrustworthy and disorganized.
On the flip side, a unified, consistent response feels steady and trustworthy. Consider leveraging a mobile crisis management platform to ensure your people have the information they need to respond to any situation at any time. A mobile app lets you quickly activate your team and then continuously communicate as a group. It also connects the right people to the right information, such as crisis statements, so you never have to worry that someone will speak to the news media or post on social media and not know what to say.
A digital crisis can move with such speed and ferocity that many organizations may see their reputations damaged before they even know what is happening. However, by taking a proactive, strategic approach to reputation management, and by leveraging mobile technology, you can ensure that your company emerges unscathed after the next big crisis.