A brand reputation is an extremely fragile concept. As Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” We all make mistakes, and even some of the greatest and most popular brands have had their own share of disasters, with Volkswagen’s cheating on emission tests, as well as the Coca Cola’s MagiCan campaign are just two that come to mind. Despite suffering significant reputational setbacks, these companies managed to put things straight. Of course, this process can be more challenging for smaller brands but with a good strategy, it’s possible to fix your brand reputation.
Own your mistakes
Marketing specialist Lauren Wiseman
After the cat is out of the proverbial bag, it’s no use trying to cover up a mistake or dodge responsibility. As Lauren Wiseman, entrepreneur, marketing specialist, and contributor to bizzmarkblog.com, advises “The best thing to do is come clean and own it. Start by apologizing to your audience and explaining how things went wrong, but don’t make any excuses or defend yourself.” Wisemans says to take your cue from Airbnb. The company addressed an accusation of racial profiling by inviting Laura Murphy of the CLU to audit the platform and ensure there was no discrimination.
If dealt with carefully and honestly, a strong brand reputation can survive a crisis without too much damage. That’s why it’s important to set clear goals. Measure your brand reputation by asking things like – How well is your brand message aligned with your company culture in your communications? Is your message communicated clearly? Are you delivering on your brand promise?
Remember that your brand is the perception of the product or service in the mind of your customer. If you work toward goals for a strong brand reputation, you’ll be able to carve out a niche for yourself in your industry and control how your target audience perceives your company. Superb and memorable customer experiences are major factors in establishing and cementing your brand reputation, so listen to your customers and make them happy and satisfied.
Leverage social media
A great majority of your customers are social media users, and since a great deal of PR and word-of-mouth marketing happens on Facebook and Twitter, it’s crucial to have a thoughtful social media strategy and to react in a timely manner. Preempting an issue will save a lot of trouble. Monitor negative feedback and social media mentions, and deal with them professionally. If you handle a problem successfully, not only will you be able to save your reputation you could turn brand supporters into fans. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on networks such as Reddit where users can write anonymous comments, and spot when a crisis starts looming on the horizon. Finally, there are platforms where employees can complain, so monitor the likes of Glassdoor in case that someone from the company spills the beans. In other words, don’t just keep an eye on your most popular social networks.
Offer solutions to repair your brand reputation
Assessing the damage is the first step towards solving the issue. After you’ve estimated the size of the ongoing crisis it’s time to take some measures and offer solutions for the problems resulting from your mistake. Act fast – if you’re not responding to the criticism promptly you may look like you’re hiding and wait for for the dust to settle. You must compensate your clients if they were affected by your mistake. A perfect example would be that in case you charged them twice for a single item, you should not only refund their money but give them something for free. Apart from a general excuse issued to all your customers, go the extra mile and call your top clients. Apologize to them personally and promise all your help in reducing the extent of the potential damage they suffered.
Ask for positive reviews
Favorable reviews from your loyal customers can also help you stay afloat in a flood of negative comments. Send an email, explain the situation, and ask them to help you out in this time of crisis. If they’re happy with your brand and with your attitude towards them, they will be very likely to jump in and back you up. These reviews won’t be fake and staged, and your customers just need to be encouraged to express their sincere opinions.
No matter how hard you try, mistakes will happen. You can protect your brand reputation if you’re prepared for such situations. Create a crisis strategy in advance and build customer loyalty. Those two factors will be your powerful allies in defending your reputation.