Crisis Management Quotables…on Expectations and Reputation

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Why failing to meet expectations is a fast track to reputation ruin

Our Crisis Management Quotable series frequently takes quotes from famous philosophers, political figures, or writers. While those are fantastic, sometimes we like to give it to you straight from Quill and Pen Crisis Management Quotables - smalla more current source – Bernstein Crisis Management’s president, Jonathan Bernstein.

The severity of reputation crises is inversely proportional to the expectations
stakeholders have about the organization or individual in crisis.

Sounds complicated, but is it really? Let’s break it down. When an oil company like BP has an environmental disaster, it’s a crisis to be certain. But, its impact on the reputation of that company is minimal. Why? It’s all about expectations. It’s pretty common belief that the oil industry can often have a negative impact on the environment, and thus nobody is surprised when an incident occurs.

Now a look at the opposite. Johnson & Johnson is well-known for its prominent line of personal care products. And, we expect anyone making products meant to be used directly on our bodies to ensure they are safe to use. Because of this, the subject of Johnson & Johnson talcum baby powder possibly causing cancer has created a HUGE problem for the brand, despite the fact that the science surrounding the accusations appears to be murky at best.

Failure to meet the expectations of stakeholders is the most aggravating factor in crises that we see today. So ensure that your marketing and public relations creates realistic expectations right up front.  I wonder how many lawsuits could have been avoided if more companies thought that way? And don’t assume you know what your stakeholders’ expectations are – ask them.

Erik Bernstein

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