Crisis Communications, Public Relations

From Response to Repair: Reputation Management in the Wake of a Crisis

By Justin Carroll | On June 25, 2014

When your company is facing a crisis, it’s critical to respond immediately. However, the long-term consequences of a crisis can be just as harmful to your brand’s image as the initial event. Though a strong crisis communications plan is essential, reputation management is an important part of ensuring that your brand is able to effectively repair its image long after the dust has settled.

Below are four steps that will allow you to transition from response to repair in the wake of a crisis.

1. Consider your audience. By doing so, you bring awareness and cohesiveness to your audience who have built familiarity and trust with your brand.  Address the reputational issues that matter most to your customers and key influencers. If your company’s products or services are now in jeopardy due to the crisis, work to fully understand these concerns so that you can take the necessary steps to rectify any issues and set the course to overcoming and rebuilding your public image.

2. Identify what long-term consequences may occur. Sometimes consequences of a crisis can take different forms. Address the immediate crisis, and then think of the ripple effect – what comes after? If a company spokesperson made an insensitive remark publicly and sales are dropping as a result, it is essential to acknowledge and address the incident immediately and then tackle the backlash that may follow. Once customer loyalty is tested, rebuilding a strong identity will require an investment of time to communicate value and regain public approval.

3. Remember your brand. Reputations are built on perceptions. In what ways did the crisis draw attention away from the essence of your brand?  Knowing specifically how the crisis affected your audience and how public perception has shifted can help you repair the damage.  In order to meet the expectations of customers and key influencers, an established ‘voice’ from the company that clearly defines your brand will remind the public what your organization represents and help drive favorable public opinion.

4. Keep at it. Crisis management in the immediate is critical, but it is not the only piece. Consider longer campaigns aimed at creating lasting goodwill. Recognize that people have long memories and work to undo whatever damage the crisis caused your brand’s reputation over time. Set long-term goals to manage your reputation after the crisis breaks and stick to your timeline.

Ultimately, your audience needs to feel a sense of sincerity about the initial apology and believe in the actions your company has taken to resolve the problem. It takes a concerted effort over a period of time to rebuild your brand in the wake of a crisis. Invest the time and resources to reestablish your reputation and continue to communicate your value. The process of rebuilding your image is what will determine the long-term survival of your brand.

Justin Carroll

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