Reputation Management During Crisis

Erik Bernstein reputation management

Reputation Management During Crisis

Customer reviews from a reputation in crisis showing 4 stars, thumbs up, positive comments

Strong reputation management during crisis situations is critical today. While many of the resources out there will proclaim the need for immediate full transparency and constant communications through all channels, the truth is that this approach can sometimes create more trouble than it resolves. In order to make reputation management during crisis effective, you need to recognize the importance of balancing openness with strategic discretion. Let’s look at some of the best practices behind how, why, and where you communicate when your reputation’s under fire.

Strategic Communication for Reputation Management During Crisis

  1. Timely and Considered Responses:
    • Responding quickly to a crisis is important, but what that response looks like should vary depending on the situation. Work quickly to assess the issues at play, and the level of audience interest, to thoughtfully determine the most appropriate response.
  2. Tailored Messaging Across Channels:
    • While consistency in communication across channels is important, the messages themselves should be tailored to suit different platforms and audiences. Craft your messaging to address specific concerns of each stakeholder group, aligning with overall strategy, brand values, and long-term business goals.
  3. Nuanced Transparency:
    • Full transparency isn’t always the most strategic approach, particularly in the initial stages of a crisis. Share information thoughtfully, ensuring it’s accurate and constructive when deployed. Not everyone in PR likes to admit this, but sometimes the best approach is to say nothing.
  4. Empathy with Strategic Positioning:
    • Messages should be empathetic and humanizing, yet carefully crafted to reinforce the brand’s position. Acknowledge the situation, express concern, and share steps being taken, without prematurely divulging details that may not be fully formed or confirmed.
  5. Active Stakeholder Engagement:
    • Engage with stakeholders proactively, but in a controlled manner. This can involve direct communication channels where feedback can be managed and addressed in line with the crisis strategy.
  6. Ongoing Monitoring and Flexible Adaptation:
    • Continuously monitor how messages are being received and be prepared to adjust the communication strategy as needed. This approach allows for responsive yet calculated communication.

As with most aspects of crisis management, reputation management during crisis is far more effective if you’ve laid the groundwork in advance. Setting yourself up for success in this area includes making efforts to create a cushion of goodwill through proactive PR or community relations and working to ensure you have the right systems, and the right people, in place.

Building and Sustaining a Resilient Reputation

  1. Robust Pre-Crisis Reputation Building:
    • Reputation management during a crisis is easier done with a firm foundation in place. Seek to cultivate a positive public image and high levels of trust before any crisis arises.
  2. Effective Training and Crisis Preparedness:
    • Equip employees with the skills to spot potential crises and to understand what their role is during a crisis event. Emphasize the importance of early detection, cohesive response, and well-rehearsed roles.
  3. Reflective Learning from Past Experiences:
    • Analyze previous crises, both internal and external, to refine your communication strategies. Pay attention to issues that impact others in your space. Learning from past instances enhances future readiness.
  4. Post-Crisis Reflection and Strategy Adjustment:
    • After navigating a crisis, critically assess the effectiveness of your communication strategy. Adapt and refine your approach for future incidents based on these insights.

The Integral Role of Leadership in Reputation Management

Leadership is crucial in shaping the tone and direction of communication during a crisis. Leaders should embody the brand’s values, providing reassurance through their presence and statements, while navigating the fine line between necessary transparency and strategic communication. When selecting who from leadership should represent your brand during any given crisis, consider the level of the situation. If something tremendously concerning and impactful has occurred then the CEO is probably the right person, if we’re talking about a more operational issue like, say, supply chain concerns, then bringing out the top brass could actually make audiences more concerned than they might be otherwise.

A Careful Strategy

Effective reputation management during crisis hinges on a carefully balanced communication strategy. It’s about being prompt, but also prudent; transparent, yet tactical. By mastering this delicate balance, businesses can maintain control over their narrative, uphold public trust, and emerge from crises with their reputation not only intact but also potentially strengthened.