Along with the perks of running your own business come the bad breaks. Entrepreneurship can be roller coaster journey of successes and setbacks. Slip-ups and attacks can even happen to the most ethical, well-managed businesses, but they’re not irreparable. Rectifying an issue that made the press, repairing a bad reputation or correcting falsehoods require carefully crafted responses and strategic plan of attack. The following is a guideline (based on two real scenarios) for restoring your brand’s image, whether it’s a short-term mishap or escalating misconception.
The TODAY Show – Matt Lauer Termination
The TODAY Show recently said goodbye to the one of the network’s most high-profile faces, Matt Lauer, who was fired after allegations of sexual misconduct. The morning following the fallout, NBC’s TODAY co-host Savannah Guthrie immediately addressed the issue live, reading a statement from NBC’s news chairman regarding his termination. If your business experienced the same kind of abrupt situation (although perhaps on a much smaller scale), here are crisis management tips that can help you remedy damage or redeem a mistake:
- Communicate with your staff, partners, etc.: Meredith Moore Crosby of LEVERETTE WEEKES, a public relations and consulting agency, advises businesses to engage their internal community, so staff know the truth and are aware of the issue before rumors start to circulate. In TODAY’s situation, the news division’s president made it a priority to meet with staff members to inform them about the allegations.
- Be transparent: Don’t wait too long to address the situation with the media, public and your staff, using your best effort at full disclosure. Transparency, even if unflattering, establishes trust and credibility. Even immediately responding with “we’re looking into the issue” can buy time for crafting the right communication strategy.
- Hold your business accountable: We all make mistakes, and the best way to recover is to “own up to it, take responsibility for it and apologize,” recommends Ryan Stewman, a Forbes contributor. Then follow-up by sharing how you plan to implement new strategies that can prevent this circumstance from happening again.
Amway – Pyramid Scheme vs. Direct Selling
Amway took to the internet to change the public’s perception. The direct selling organization has undergone scrutiny for being a pyramid scheme, which is a financial fraudulent operation or scam based on recruiting consumers and “investors” who are promised large profits and whose investments pay those who joined earlier. Amway leveraged its blog as the platform to directly address the pyramid scheme myth and help build its reputation as a real enterprise. Check out these reputation-boosting tips to help your company respond to attacks, rumours and any negative scrutiny over how your business runs.
- Share personal stories: Included in Amyway’s pyramid scheme vs. direct selling statement were personal stories by real people who have found success in starting a business through the company. Customer reviews and testimonials can also illustrate your business’s image in a positive light.
- Monitor your digital presence: To help control your brand’s image, stay on top of your social media accounts, product reviews, blog comments and other digital spaces where people can post detrimental content. You don’t want to miss the start of disparaging chatter to the point that it escalates into a crisis, unbeknownst to you. Be quick to respond to online complaintswith honesty, authenticity and thoughtfulness.
- Plan an Event: Similar to a press conference, an event can give you the platform to explicitly respond to any false information or misconceptions. Send a personal invitation to individuals whom you want to address. You can also host a webinar where people can be a part of the conversation remotely and interact/ask questions in real-time.
What not to do? Avoid being harshly on the defensive and pointing fingers to deflect blame. Don’t try to cover up the mistake or be quick to react with emotion if your business becomes a target of criticism and skepticism. A company mishap or myths don’t mean it’s the end. Damage control, crisis management and being proactive about how the world should view your company (plus some patience) can help your business repair its image or rebuild its reputation.