Managing brand reputation is becoming increasingly challenging
A plumber in the US state of Texas is suing a car dealer for US$1m after a truck he traded-in appeared in a propaganda video from Syrian rebels in an attack on the city of Aleppo. When he traded the truck-in back in 2013, Mark Oberholtzer, owner of Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas City was advised to leave his business branding on the vehicle rather than risk damaging the paintwork. The dealer assured him they would remove the decals themselves before selling the vehicle, but a year later the truck appeared in a jihadi propaganda photograph still bearing his business brand. Oberholtzer has reportedly received more than 1000 angry phone calls including death threats, making his life a misery and trashing his brand reputation.
Whilst this example is somewhat extreme, it raises the challenge of protecting your brands reputation in all the channels it now finds itself connective with the market. Social media, online reviews, Instagram-outing, online forums for disgruntled employees and unintended negative brand associations appearing in digital media represent risks to reputation that brands need to stay atop-of. Just as important is having a strategy ready should your brand reputation is tarnished in this manner.
Useful Tactics for Recovering Brand Reputation
• Based-on the assumption that the vast majority of brands and brand owners are motivated by good and are of pure intent, we recommend an approach of good, old fashioned honesty.
• If you’ve slipped-up (a reality of business) a straight-out, genuine apology is a good starting point.
• Listening and acknowledging offense creates a positive platform for reputation recovery.
• Ensuring the market understands the outcome was never the intention, and that the brand works hard every day to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen is important.
• Making good is another critical step – a genuine attempt at remedy is important for how your brand is perceived. Regardless of the response from the person impacted, the way you respond is also for a broader audience.
• Learning from your mistakes is critical. Brand reputation forgiveness will be increasingly more challenging if you continue to make the same mistakes.
The most critical principle of all is; ‘credit in the bank’. A brand with a clean sheet, who has done all the right things to engage and build community over time will find their reputation will come-through with less damage than a brand who has failed to invest in credits in the bank.