Tips for rebuilding reputation after a crisis

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A slew of recently released surveys show organisations place the utmost importance on their reputation, with many realising any hit to their reputation can be costly.

But if a crisis was to happen and a company’s reputation is tarnished how can they successfully rebuild it? David Van, founder and managing director of reputational risk management consultancy The De Wintern Group recommends taking two key steps to getting a reputation back on track.

Number one – ensure any other possible damaging problems don’t follow quickly on the heels of what has already happened. This means carrying out an audit or assessment of any other extant reputational risks.

“Once something’s happened any other issue, no matter how small, will be highlighted and will only compound on the damage already done,” Van told Corporate Risk and Insurance. “So something that might have been of no interest to media or other stakeholders previously can have a compounding effect. Because that company is already in the media you’ll see often following a crisis any other coverage will have a tagline (relating to the first crisis). It tends to follow them and any other news gets tagged with that. This makes it difficult to get positive messages out.”

Secondly it is important to have closure on the crisis according to Van – whether that is by a legal case or inquiry.  

“The best way to do that (if it’s not subject to an external inquiry) is for the company itself to commission an independent inquiry and then publish the results of that,” Van said.

“If there’s ligation afoot then you must let it run its course, but if there’s not it’s a very good step for companies to demonstrate transparency (transparency is a key driver of reputation). It is very beneficial to go through the exercise of investigating how it happened, clarifying what the error was and demonstrating that it’s not going to happen again.”

Van also recommends exploring the possibility of participating in a seminar explaining to other companies who they can avoid going through a similar crisis.

“A lot of companies baulk at this because they don’t want to talk about what’s happened but people know that bad things can happen and the loss of reputation mostly derives not from what happened but why it happened and what you did about it,” he said.

“As you went through it, people will want to know that you learnt from that lesson, being genuine and showing how something happened and saying to other companies here’s what happened to us, here’s how you can avoid the same thing, is a really good step to do that.”

After taking these steps Van advises it’s a matter of doing your normal promotions, PR and advertising but with sensitivity to what’s happened.

“If you show genuine remorse and genuine efforts as to how and why it won’t happen again your reputation will come out the other side stronger than it was before,” he said. 

Related articles:
The key to managing reputation risk – part one
The key to managing reputation risk – part two
5 considerations for a crisis plan

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