Key Takeaways from PSU CEPE’s Digital Marketing Breakfast on Crisis Communications and Reputation Management

Key Takeaways from PSU CEPE’s Digital Marketing Breakfast on Crisis Communications and Reputation Management
Nov 15 2016

“If you don’t move quickly, the world will do it for you.” Lisa Heathman, on handling a social media crisis. 


It’s fascinating to think about how reputation works. Reputation is unique in that it takes years to build, but within a blink of an eye can be shattered. With media spreading at rapid rates across multiple digital platforms, one small comment or mistake can quickly spiral out of control. However, 84% of consumers state that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Managing your reputation is vital to maintaining a positive online image, building brand loyalty, and increasing trust of your product or service.


Are you wondering how to manage your business’s reputation? Or not sure how to effectively communicate during a crisis? Mambo has you covered! Here are the key takeaways from PSU’s CEPE’s Digital Marketing Breakfast, which included Crisis Communications and Reputation Management experts Lisa Heathman (Vice President at LANE), Rick Thomas (Partner at Quinn Thomas) and Dave Thompson (Public Affairs Program Manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation).


Step 1: Plan Ahead


Lacking a crisis communication plan can be catastrophic for your business. Be over prepared to ensure your reputation isn’t tarnished by one incident.


Here are a few tips on planning ahead:


  • Research past crises that took place in your industry – There’s a common saying “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.” When researching past crises pay close attention to the different actions that took place and what the results came from those actions. History provides the chance to study what worked and didn’t work. Take advantage of it!


  • Use a word cloud or brand monitoring tool – Technology such as word clouds can be an effective way to visualize the sentiment around your brand and help to monitor your online identity. With word clouds you can input in your company’s website and social media urls to learn common phrases and words, both positive and negative, associated with your brand. By using monitoring tools to consistently listen to brand mentions, you’ll be able to mitigate a negative comment before it blows out of proportion.


  • Build a network of advocates – Consistently work to build partnership and foster meaningful relationships with thought leaders on your offline and online channels.If a crisis does occur, you’ll have influential people and brand evangelists to stand up on your behalf.


Step 2 Weather the Storm


Battling storms are tough, but you must stay strong.


If a crisis does occur, follow this advice:


  • Be the first to respond – Tell your story, don’t let the world tell it for you. If you take over 24 hours to respond to a crisis, you will have let the story spin out of control, regardless whether the information is true or not. Always remember the longer you wait, the more damage you can create.


  • Don’t view the media as your enemy – The media will reach out to hear your side of the story. Once that happens, have a solution ready, and relentlessly communicate your core values. When possible, don’t reply to a question stating “no comment”. Instead, view the media as an opportunity to set the record straight and to offer solutions for your customers or stakeholders who are directly affected.


  • Select a primary spokesperson – This ensures the information going out to the public is consistent, professionally representative, and on-message for your brand. All communications, including press releases and statements, should be reviewed by those speaking on behalf of your brand. Another tip is to have a designated backup spokesperson incase the primary spokesperson becomes unavailable during the crisis. Both individuals should be steeped in your plan, protocol, and process during a crisis.
  • Express empathy and concern when victims are involved – Deflecting blame makes your company appear insensitive to the situation. Be personable, authentic and genuine with your messaging. Every effort should be made to humanize your brand.
  • Be present – Have a presence on your social communities. Simple actions like responding to negative publicity with a link to websites that have the correct information, or continually updating your followers with new information can play a major role in damage control.


Congratulations, you’ve weathered the storm! But wait, the work isn’t done yet. Now is the time to focus on reestablishing trust. Always remember a relationship without trust will rust!


Step 3: Restore the Peace


  • Fix what went wrong – what caused the crisis? Use this experience to make a change in your business or customer service policy. Ensure the same incident doesn’t happen again by having a post mortem discussion with your team and stakeholders about how you can avoid another crisis.


  • Make good on promises made – action speaks louder than words. If you make a commitment, always follow up with an action. Your company’s actions during and after a crisis will be more memorable than words.


  • Actively listen – make it a habit to continue to monitor your brand presence. Be aware of what’s being said about you, and shed light on untrue or negative publicity so your audience is educated with accurate information, in turn becoming a loyalist to your brand.


  • Turn it into a positive – Crises can be an opportunity to improve your business model. How did your team handle the situation? Use this insight to continually improve your crisis plan. Take the time to fix issues, train employees, or answer questions based on feedback you heard from your audience during the crisis.


Going through a crisis is never a fun time. But if you follow the necessary steps, crises can be avoided, or turned positive with these reputation management tactics.


If you are interested in learning more about this topic, check out PSU’s CEPE class on Strategic Communications and Reputation Management.


Need a reputation management plan? Let Mambo know your biggest challenges and we’ll help you problem solve before a crisis occurs.

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