In today’s connected business world, there are very few secrets. United Airlines, for example, recently learned the hard way that one ugly incident can go viral and spread around the world in a matter of minutes – not hours, days or weeks.
United initially faced criticism over the rough treatment of a passenger being removed from one of their planes. Then, the company learned a second lesson when its CEO’s response to the crisis seemed somewhat disconnected and uncaring. United was in the middle of a reputational crisis, and its first official response to angry consumers only added more fuel to the fire. Later, the CEO offered an apology and a more compassionate statement – but the damage was done.
There are lessons to be taken from this and other high-profile cases where companies have seen their reputation, which they’ve worked hard to cultivate, trashed in the public spotlight. The fact is, things happen, and no company has a guaranteed way to safeguard their reputation from ever being dinged or facing scrutiny, whether fair or not. But there are ways to mitigate the damage and help ensure your company survives the crisis, and can rebuild its reputation in a positive way.
Know that people are talking about you. In the age of Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and other social engagement sites, people are keen to talk about what they like, dislike, what they wish would be better, and anything else on their mind. That includes your company and your products or services. Accept this and embrace it. Engage with people who post on social media when appropriate, and always in a polite and respectful manner. When there is a legitimate problem, communicate that you are taking the matter seriously and looking to resolve it, and then do so.
Be transparent. A way to be proactive in your engagement with others is to ask for feedback. Then be prepared to address it, good or bad. Consumers, stakeholders and even your own employees will be impressed by the open lines of communication and an honest dialog. In this way, you can strive to improve your services and offerings and show that you are receptive to your client’ needs.
Protect your customers’ data. Nothing can destroy your reputation among your clients and customers quicker than having to tell them their personal information, which was entrusted to you to remain private and protected, is now in the hands of hackers or criminals because you suffered a security breach. Even worse is when they learn that your company did not take all the measures necessary, or even the most basic ones, to prevent such a breach from occurring. Not only might you be criminally liable, but customers will run from you, not wanting to take a risk that something like that could happen again in the future. In today’s high-risk environment, you must have the most sophisticated and up-to-date security measures in place to protect your date – and your reputation.
Conduct due diligence. How much do you know about your third-party partners – those suppliers and contractors that you’ve trusted for years, or new ones with whom you seek to engage? An unethical partner can have serious effects on your own company’s reputation – bribery, corruption, supply chain problems are all issues that can end up tainting your own business and causing your customers to lose trust in your products or services. Conducting thorough due diligence, with background checks and full risk assessments, is the only way to help protect your reputation from potential harm.
It may feel sometimes like your company’s reputation is out of your control. However, there are steps you can take to help manage your reputation and help steer the conversation. It becomes more difficult when you wait, and try to undo later the damage that has already been done. That’s why being proactive in maintaining a positive reputation is the best strategy. Contact CRI Group today and let us help you stay on the path to managing your message and your reputation.