How To Rescue A Negative Brand Reputation

Your brand reputation evolves over time as customers interact with and form a perception of your company.

When brands give consumers reasons to trust their services, this trust develops into loyalty, which can then turn into more purchases and revenue. But if consumer trust is lacking or damaged, reputation suffers along with business.

Damage to a brand’s reputation rarely occurs overnight. Oftentimes, negative reviews and experiences chip away at a positive reputation one-by-one. That being said, major scandals or crises have the potential to immediately create a negative brand reputation.

The residual effects of crises impact long-term operation and profit, which is why it’s important to restore consumers’ trust and goodwill as soon as possible.

Reputations are salvageable if the issues and crises that arise are addressed head-on. Developing the right content can play a big role in turning a negative brand reputation around. Content managers and producers should take proactive measures to rescue and restore trust as quickly as possible.

Whether you’re directly involved in a brand-damaging crisis or advising a client, this article provides pragmatic steps for recovering your brand’s image.

An Actionable Crisis Management Plan

Image source: Vantage Circle

For long-term success, brands should account for a wide-range of What ifs — especially when it comes to potential crises.

A crisis management plan outlines possible high-risk scenarios and the best strategies for addressing these scenarios. When brands face crises, it’s not advisable to rely on off-the-cuff responses alone. Doing so can actually worsen the situation, not remedy it.

This is why a crisis management plan is crucial.

Before creating your brand’s plan, examine how other brands have dealt with crises in the past. In doing so, you can make informed decisions to ensure that your brand is as prepared as possible for a variety of scenarios.

To offer an example, let’s say a brand airs a TV commercial that features royalty free music. The brand legally purchased the music from a licensing company but failed to submit a cue sheet for permission to air the music on TV.

Representatives with the licensing company reach out to the brand about the legal misstep. To avoid a lawsuit, the brand needs to respond quickly. In this scenario, the solution might be to submit the cue sheet late and stop the commercial from airing until the company gives approval.

Not doing so can damage the brand’s reputation and financial standing.

After pinpointing possible scenarios like this one, you can match the urgency of each potential crisis with the appropriate response. The more thorough you are when creating a game plan, the better equipped you are when a crisis actually occurs.

The next step is to delegate responsibilities among the brand’s leaders. Especially in moments of high stress, not assigning roles can create more internal chaos.

Identify the person who will address the press, and make sure you have a press release template already made. Form a crisis committee that meets regularly to plan for moments just like this. Maintain open communication with the rest of the team.

By taking preemptive measures, you can face consumer backlash and salvage brand reputation.

Rescuing A Negative Brand Reputation When Crises Arise

1. Identify the Issues

Even with thorough preparation, it’s impossible to anticipate every crisis scenario.

Brands may overlook important details — such as filling out a cue sheet — that can quickly spiral into unexpected legal issues. While a crisis management plan is critical in these moments, there is a difference between planning and enacting the plan in real time.

When a brand’s reputation has been sullied, you must identify the issue or issues rather than hide from them.

Is there an operational flaw with the brand’s services or products? Do consumers feel misled or overcharged? Did a promotional video send the wrong message?

Consumers will be upfront about why they have a negative perception of your brand. Before you can address the issues, you need to listen to your audience and identify what the issues are.

2. Avoid Trigger Responses

When rescuing a negative brand reputation, it’s never a smart tactic to match negative for negative. In moments of conflict, the first instinct is to defend your brand. However, responding from a hurtful and defensive state will only worsen the brand’s reputation.

Instead of fueling consumers’ frustration, refer to your crisis management plan and approach the identified issues with a level head.

3. Be Upfront with The Audience

People will notice if the issues they bring to a brand’s attention are ignored. Regardless of the issues at hand, it’s necessary to be upfront about the fact that you recognize the issues and are taking specific steps to address the situation.

By honestly addressing the issues in a timely manner, you can begin to earn back consumer trust and respect. While it may take time to enact positive changes, the promise of change is far more impactful than complacency and inaction.

Consumers appreciate when brands take criticism in stride and publicly share that progress is being made to address identified issues.

Restoring Reputation Through Long-Term Changes

Let’s expand on the aforementioned music licensing scenario, for a moment.

If the music licensing company approves the brand’s late cue sheet submission, the brand can legally air the commercial. Though the outcome is positive this time around, it might not be the same if the issue occurs again.

To safeguard against future oversights, the team should make sure that their process for licensing music is legally sound and comprehensive. If not, you’re essentially putting a bandaid on the problem rather than looking for a long-term solution.

The same goes for rescuing a negative brand reputation. If you apply minimal effort into repairing the reputation, your efforts won’t be as effective for long-term. While it’s necessary to implement positive changes that address the issues at hand, it’s also important to assess if there is potential for future related issues.

In order to reconstruct a brand’s reputation, you must identify and acknowledge the issues with consideration for your brand’s audience. Once you identify the reasons why a brand’s reputation is suffering, you can begin the work of creating positive change.

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