How to repair a damaged brand reputation

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How to repair a damaged brand reputation

In the fast-paced world of business, one day you can leave the office and congratulate yourself on a job well done; the next, you and your company are being lambasted in Facebook newsfeeds and Twitter timelines around the globe and you must call a crisis management meeting.

In business, maintaining a good reputation can be tricky. All it takes is a corporate indiscretion or two, a faulty product or poor service provision, or a misjudged ad (hello Pepsi!) combined with an angry, web-savvy consumer or employee with a social media account and revenge in mind, and it’s time to brace yourself for a PR nightmare.

All this negative publicity can exert a harsh impact on your online standing, but if you know how to repair a damaged reputation and react swiftly, you can soften the blow and make a comeback in the search engine result pages (SERPs). This means having a well-thought out crisis management plan in place, which involves appeasement and action and can lead to redemption online and offline.

Consumers no longer need to march into a store and force a furious showdown with the manager to make themselves heard. Why would they? Now they can go straight to a website – yours or someone else’s – and post negative reviews right there or on your social media page in full, unmoderated colour for all to see and for all to share or retweet to their followers (gulp). Traditional media and industry trade press can then hammer nails into your online coffin by creating content surrounding the (alleged) event. Like some sort of digital rag doused in petrol, this content can also trigger a volley of shares and retweets, leading to speculation, gossip and a sour taste in consumers’ mouths whenever your brand crops up in conversation.

Uber’s wrong turns

Lately, the company hogging the headlines in this regard is the US transportation network company Uber. Take, for example, the recent ‘hashtagtivism’ campaign encouraging transport users to boycott Uber following a perceived strike-breaking attempt by the company or the footage of Uber chief executive, Travis Kalanick, having a verbal set-to with one of his drivers.

When faced with negative publicity of this kind, you can’t just curl up into a ball and hope it all goes away. Ideally, you should have a solid crisis management plan already in place to fall back on, but if you haven’t, speak to your PR team before you get on the phone to your lawyers. Personally, we’d suggest that an apology is the way to go. And it does have to be sincere – no clichéd or boilerplate language – otherwise you’ll be setting yourself up for PR disaster number two.

On the driver vs chief executive confrontation, we’ve seen Travis Kalanick express remorse, apologise to the driver and to Uber and its community in an email to the company, also posted on the company blog.

Then there’s the furore over Uber’s perceived strikebreaking attempt. This time around, it doesn’t seem there was any direct apology; only an explanation on social media of the company’s intentions.

Apparently, the company weren’t trying to break up the strike, but rather let people know that, despite the strike, they could still count on Uber to transport passengers to and from JFK airport (are you confused, too?). At the same time, the chief executive stepped down from the US President’s business advisory council, a moment which, even though conducted in an offline sphere, generated slightly more positive content online surrounding Uber and would have helped its online reputation a little more.

Good news for SEO

We all know that updating your site with new content benefits your SEO by catering to Google’s preference for fresh content. It’s not just that this content can drive more traffic to your site and boost your SEO further, no. Through this content creation, you can also push more negative results about your company or brand down on the internet. This strategy bears its fruit more in the long-term than the short term, so the sooner you start publishing, the better. Posting on social media is a given.

Hopefully, there are articles and reviews out there singing your praises. Ideally, your links should not be to sponsored content, if you can help it, but to reviews or content that have truly compelled the writer to portray you in a positive light.

Your online reputation is precious, and once someone starts to take an axe to it, you’ve got to react swiftly to protect your corporate image. Expressing remorse and addressing the problem, and letting people know you’re doing so, is a way to work towards short-term redemption online and offline, while posting new content regularly can help to make the PR disaster disappear into the SERPs and become something only those with long memories would want to Google.

Peter Jenkins

Peter Jenkins is a digital editor with Caliber.

All by Peter