Slander against brands and bad press isn’t rare. Each year has its fair share of PR faux pas, leading businesses into choppy waters. The media often sensationalizes negative news, thus threatening a business’s reputation, user base, customer trust, and bottom line.
Remember the moral protests that tarnished the reputation of the Beverly Hills Hotel? Or worse still, do you recollect big names like Domino’s sitting ducks because they weren’t complying with the website accessibility standards?
PR crisis is a nightmare for enterprises and PR teams with a lot at stake, including brand image and reputation. Information is elusive and time for damage control is less; hence, most enterprises are unable to manage such tricky situations that can have a lasting impact on their company image.
In fact, a 2019 survey revealed that 55 percent of firms aren’t adequately prepared for a PR crisis.
In this article, I’m going to share a few tips on brand reputation management that will help you protect your business from troubles it’s most likely to face.
Let’s start from the basics:
What does brand reputation mean?
Brand reputation has to do with how your brand is viewed by others. A few factors that come into play when it comes to a business’s online reputation are:
- The company culture – is it inclusive? How does the firm treat internal (employees/vendors) and external customers?
- Whether or not it adds value to its target audience
- The promptness of the response to its customers, be it existing or potential ones
- Its social media presence
With so many elements involved, it’s not that easy to protect and enhance your brand reputation at all times. Luckily, there are a few things that can help you manage your brand reputation more effectively—and I call them the brand reputation must-haves.
Company brand reputation must-haves
1. Having a dedicated PR team on board
Regardless of how talented and experienced your PR team is, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by negative publicity when it happens. This can cause panic, preventing the team from responding quickly and effectively.
A trained PR communications team and a well-established operating procedure can help them tackle such situations in the best way possible. Apart from contingency planning that you can do in advance, here are a few points to bear in mind:
Designate a crisis response team
More often than not, an issue blows out of proportion because a PR team member or the team leader goes rogue. Have a diverse team of a crisis communicator or public spokesperson, the media manager, and the crisis consultant in place to get different and unbiased perspectives on the crisis. Count on subject-specific experts who can effectively communicate with the media without compromising legal matters.
Ideally, the team should report to the CEO and head of PR and work in close coordination with the HR and legal team. The team should be adequately trained in matters, such as checking the facts, developing holding statements, and designing a persuasive public response.
Define roles and responsibilities
Make sure each member of the PR comms team is clear on their roles and responsibilities. For instance, the media manager should know that their primary duty is to manage media relations. Be it moderating social media, responding to media requests, or sharing the right information with the right people, a media manager needs to stay composed when dealing with the media in the middle of a crisis.
Use these questions to help you define the roles:
- Who’s responsible for the overall crisis response plan?
- Who will be monitoring and finding potential crises?
- Who will be informing the C-suite or the key stakeholders about the crisis and when?
- Who’s in charge of social media conversations?
- Who will be managing communication on the other channels?
- Who will be the spokesperson for the media?
Encourage internal collaboration
When issues spiral out of control, it’s easy for the various departments, namely legal, investor relations, public affairs, HR, sales and marketing, and communications to blame each other. This will worsen the situation, ruining organizational reputation.
Encourage internal communication between the various functions of the organization. This will help the teams collaborate, building a culture of open communication and transparency. When the internal team works together the messaging is consistent, allowing the organization to resolve issues quickly.
Make sure you’re equipped with the right tools that make communication easier, both internally, and with other parties – think call center software, team messaging apps, and project management tools, as an example.
2. Investing in PR tools & media monitoring systems
Being equipped with PR tools is a critical part of proactively dealing with any crisis. Invest in PR software like Prowly and media monitoring services that can crawl the web, including social media, in real-time to find the potential crises involving your brand. These tools can also identify and alert you about unhappy customers and a key stakeholder who may have tweeted something inappropriate.
3. Proactively managing your brand image and reputation
In a TripAdvisor-Ipsos MORI survey, 97 percent of business owners agreed that brand reputation management is critical to business success. Your brand image and reputation are a form of currency that can be used to generate leads, improve customer loyalty, and boost the bottom line. How to enhance your brand reputation, then?
Keep a tab on your social footprint
The increased proliferation and immediacy of social channels has made it a two-edged sword in PR crisis management. On one hand, it can be used as a powerful tool to foresee and effectively tackle a PR crisis. On the other hand, an inappropriate comment or delay in public commentary on the issue can build up in a minute.
Monitor brand mentions and user comments related to your brand to get an idea of what people are saying about your business. Have a rapid response team in place that responds to comments in real-time. Finally, make sure your communication is consistent across all channels and aligned with the business’s social strategy and branding.
Each social platform can be leveraged for enhancing your PR efforts in case of a crisis:
- Facebook – Get active on relevant groups, track brand mentions, include CTA buttons for donations to a charitable cause, and offer instant messaging options to allow followers to contact you easily.
- Twitter – The platform can be leveraged for sharing quick messages and updates. Add a direct messaging option to provide instant customer service.
- LinkedIn – It is a great channel to showcase your domain expertise, connect with customers and industry influencers, and make company announcements like promotions, new ventures, or brand launches.
- Instagram – Use Instagram to connect with influencers, promote events, and share behind-the-scenes posts. Your posts should give the community a glimpse into your company culture.
Make the most out of press releases
In this digital era, online reputation is all about what Google thinks of you. Distributing press releases and having them published by several media outlets is a sure-shot way to make Google think that your brand is trustworthy and respected.
A high search ranking on Google positions your business in a positive light and improves brand awareness. All journalists agree that press releases are the top way to find stories. Make sure you write your press release in a proper manner, though.
However, creating a professional press release is only half the battle won. Jonathan Perelman of BuzzFeed points out that content is king, but distribution is queen and she wears the pants. It’s not nearly enough to create a good piece of content. You have to understand how content spreads across the web.
If your PR team lacks the required expertise, include an expert PR firm that can work on getting the best media coverage for you.
Make your online content accessible
Inclusive digital design and user experience are important elements of a firm’s online reputation. Stemming from the ADA 1990 (Americans with Disabilities Act), companies are needed to ensure that people with disabilities can access all the website features with ease. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) directs web developers and designers to make their site user-friendly and accessible to all.
Failing to adhere to these guidelines can invite a lot of negative press and lawsuits, ruining the public perception of the brand. Data reveals that, in the first half of 2019 alone, 5592 federal ADA Title III lawsuits were filed against businesses, making it a record-breaking year.
Yan Yanko, the VP Marketing at accessiBe, an AI-powered web accessibility tool that automates web accessibility, shares that the consequences of not providing an accessible website to disabled internet users can be devastating. Therefore, businesses should invest in such tech-driven web accessibility solutions that address compliance issues and reduce the risk of any potential reputational damage to the business.
In this modern digital era, enterprises have to work harder than before to improve customer experience and enhance their brand image and reputation at all times. But even that doesn’t shield them from a possible PR crisis. Therefore, firms must take a proactive approach to manage such bitter situations.
Though it may seem like a temporary blip, a PR crisis can have a lasting impact on your image. Use the strategies shared above to proactively tackle brand reputation management and make sure you have all company brand reputation must-haves covered.
Cover photo found on Freepik