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How to Navigate the Waters of Repairing Your Business Reputation

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It happens to the best businesses around. A customer slips through the cracks and shares their experiences not just with their close friends, but with the rest of the internet as well. Enough disgruntled customers and the internet takes notice of your business – and not in the way you want. Your businesses reputation can be damaged in a big way due to customer woes, product slips and any number of negatives. An employee of your company can even injure your brand if someone hears them venting after a days work or sharing private information. So if the internet is filled with folks complaining about your business, is there any chance at turning the ship around?

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Photo Credit: Zondra Hughes
Photo Credit: Zondra Hughes

Tell the truth and fix what’s been broken

We launched the Six Brown Chicks with a mission to blog about life, love and losing the drama, yet behind the scenes, we fought like cats and dogs. There were power struggles, back-stabbing, secret alliances, dubious motives, and so on, until finally we dismantled. The break-up was ugly and public, with at least one member announcing her departure via our social media platforms. The only thing that saved this group was authenticity. We blogged about the breakdown; we appeared on Oprah Winfrey Network’s Iyanla Fix My Life show and dealt with our issues. Our audience understood our plight and today we’re back, better than before.

Thanks to Zondra Hughes, Six Brown Chicks

Related Post: Ethics in Business – Best Rules to Follow

 

Photo Credit: Mark Pastin, Ph.D.
Photo Credit: Mark Pastin, Ph.D.

Publicly own the problem

1) Publicly own the problem. If you have a reputation issue, the bad news is already widely known. By owning the problem, you demonstrate a potential for integrity going forward. 2) Clearly and succinctly state what will be different going forward. If there a policy that caused the problem, say how it has been changed. If it is a management practice that has proven problematic, state how it will be changed. It is particularly helpful if you make changes that outsiders can observe. 3) If the problem is the responsibility of certain individuals who acted unethically, those people need to be removed from positions of responsbility. The public doesn’t care if you get rid of a few spear carriers; firing down line managers and employees is viewed as part of a cover up. You must make changes at the highest level responsible for the problem. When it comes to this aspect of reputation recovery, it is often the board that has to act. 4) Reputation recovery is not an instantaneous process. Making cosmetic changes and continuing with business as usual will not work. You need a long term commitment to change.

Thanks to Mark Pastin, Ph.D., Council of Ethical Organizations

 

Photo Credit: Jane Blume
Photo Credit: Jane Blume

It’s not an easy trip

There can be any number of reasons why a company might suffer from a damaged reputation. Perhaps the company has been producing inferior products, or has been found to engage in deceptive business practices. Perhaps it’s being sued by its stockholders, or is the subject of a class action lawsuit. Perhaps its top executives have come under government scrutiny — if not indictment. One thing is for certain: if the reputation has taken a hit, then something (or more than one thing) is profoundly wrong within the company’s culture and business practices. Unless the company’s Board and/or management are willing to take an honest look at what caused the damage (preferably with outside advisors), make a profound commitment to making the necessary changes, and demonstrate through words, deeds and increased transparency that the changes have been made, it will be difficult – if not impossible – to repair the damage.

Thanks to Jane Blume, Desert Sky Communications

 

Photo Credit: David Kam Zandi
Photo Credit: David Kam Zandi

Give it time and space

deal with global brand marketing and when it comes to damaged reputation or failures; I always advise to simply walk away, give it some time and space, to allow the public to forget. Damaged reputation or failures are like quicksand, the harder you fight it, the quicker you?ll sink. Example: a few years ago, I deal with CEO of a telecommunications, who was not pleased that the regulators had not approved his merger which he had staked his name on, and what he was doing was having his people complain publicly and the more they complained, it just made them seem like sore losers in the eyes of the public; my advice was stop it, let it and walk away. When you have no move and there is no play, you do nothing, you sit it out and wait, plan, secure more resources and when you see a new opportunity, you come back.

Thanks to David Kam Zandi, Zandi Films

 

Photo Credit: Andi Enns
Photo Credit: Andi Enns

Your reputation can change only if you change

used to have a client whose products had a terrible reputation for low quality. We’re talking hundreds of 1-star Amazon reviews on pricey products. They were desperate for a quick fix. Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix for a damaged reputation. The best thing to do is take a long, hard look at your business and make some real changes for the better. Publicize those changes and brace yourself for the road ahead. Your reputation can change — but only if YOU change.

Thanks to Andi Enns

 

Photo Credit: Laura Lee Rose
Photo Credit: Laura Lee Rose

It depends on how much damage you’ve incurred

If would depend upon how much damage you incurred. First step is to objectively own the current state of things. Most people dig themselves deeper by not recognizing that the negative business reputation (regardless of who is to blame for it) is not beneficial to their business. They wait too long to recognize the spiral or do anything positive about it. The second step is to make immediate and ‘beyond expectations’ amends. The third step is to put into place procedures and systems that will avoid this ever happening again. Although rebuilding your client trust takes time, apologizing and publicizing the new systems (that avoids the error in the future) will help reduce the rebuilding time.

Thanks to Laura Lee Rose, Rose Coaching, LLC

 

Photo Credit: Matthew Zajechowski
Photo Credit: Matthew Zajechowski

Do an assessment of your brand

Business reputation can be damaged for many reasons, but whatever the reason it is important to try and repair your damaged business reputation to ensure the future success of your company. The first step I would recommend is doing an assessment of your brand. Ask yourself these simples questions: What Happened? Who Was Effected? What Can You Do To Correct It? Asking for outside opinions can be helpful as well. It never hurts to have an extra set of eyes on your assessment of your damaged brand. Once your assessment has been completed you can now move on to addressing the problems that are hurting you brand. Be upfront and candid about your issues. Clear up any misinformation or negative reviews of your company. If you’ve made mistakes, address them honestly and apologize when necessary. Try and provide a resolution to the people that have been affected.

Thanks to Matthew Zajechowski, Digital Third Coast

 

Photo Credit: Adam Leipzig
Photo Credit: Adam Leipzig

Make good no matter what it costs

When you have damaged your reputation, it means you have broken trust with your customers. The only way to win back that trust is to treat your customers with the same respect, honesty and caring you would any other essential relationship: Tell them the truth, apologize for your error, make good no matter what it costs (even if you lose money) and—this is essential—don’t make the same mistake again. In the early part of my career at Walt Disney Studios, there was an incident on one of my movies. Two teenagers copied a stunt in the film on opening weekend; one was killed and the other seriously injured. We took the extraordinary step of pulling back the prints from 1,600 theatres, and we cut that scene out of the picture. We owned it, fixed it, apologized. And we all learned.

Thanks to Adam Leipzig, Entertainment Media Partners

Related Post: Entrepreneurs Share Their Most Memorable Business Mistakes

 

Photo Credit: Deborah Sweeney
Photo Credit: Deborah Sweeney

Focus on communication with your customers

Focus on communication with your customers. Communicating is the best way to repair a damaged business reputation. Respond to the issue, address it head-on and apologize. Don’t deny something that happened, your customers will appreciate the honesty. Try and make things right as best you can and get out there and admit something went wrong but that you and your business are committed to making it better.

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation.com

 

 

Photo Credit: Manpreet Singh
Photo Credit: Manpreet Singh

Save face, face-to-face

Badmouthing and defaming a competitor is tactless and unprofessional under any circumstances, but especially if done publicly at a panel or conference and said competitor happens to be present. Best thing to do is genuinely apologize as soon as you realize your mistake. Pull the individual aside if you can. If you can’t apologize privately, but have another opportunity to speak publicly and rectify your past comments, do so. People will respect your owning up to the matter and it will set a good precedence. If these options aren’t available, call the company or individual. Don’t email. Your apology may easily be shrugged off as disingenuous.

Thanks to Manpreet Singh, SevaCall

 

Photo Credit: Tammy Kahn Fennell
Photo Credit: Tammy Kahn Fennell

Immediately explain yourself

My company, MarketMeSuite, made a blunder not too long ago that was caught by KillerStartups. The mistake was that in testing a feature of MarketMeSuite, we wound up sending out 10 similar posts through our Twitter feed in less than 5 minutes. The author, a MarketMeSuite user, rightfully called us out on it. But how we reacted was key. Fortunately, I’ve managed to learn a thing or two along the road of “startupdom” so, upon reading the article, I immediately commented, owned the mistake, apologized, and explained what happened. I was open and honest about the fact that we are a growing startup, and some internal testing went onto our main Twitter stream inadvertently. In turn, KillerStartups posted my comment to the post right away. I went a step further and did a little damage control by replying to everyone who Tweeted the article, directing them to my comment in the most non-defensive way that I could. It worked. Not only did the author feature my comment inside the post, thank me, they also asked me to write an article for the site which has resulted in increased (positive!) exposure for my company.

Thanks to Tammy Kahn Fennell, MarketMeSuite

Related Post: How to Pull a Struggling Company From the Grave

 

Photo Credit: Brent Payne
Photo Credit: Brent Payne

Put out positive information

“Image is everything. All it takes is one negative comment from an irate customer to undo months, even years, of hard work and positive reviews. Since it seems like nothing on the internet can ever truly go away, brands should focus on high-quality content published through multiple media platforms. These will reinforce a company’s expertise as an industry thought leader. Positive information and keywords will shield against negative search associations, poor reviews and hurtful comments that could tarnish a brand. Essentially, one wants to infiltrate search engine results with positive press.

Thanks to Brent Payne, Loud Interactive

Gresham Harkless Jr.

Gresham Harkless is a Media Consultant for Blue 16 Media and the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.

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