In today's digital world, maintaining a good reputation is essential for business success. However, protecting your brand from reputational damage can be challenging. The presence of the internet and social media keeps everyone in communication 24/7. This is a good thing and a bad thing. The good is that the internet and social media enable brands to engage with customers, build community, learn about new products, new trends, and to learn from competitors. The negative is that it takes only one dissatisfied customer to harm your brand’s credibility and trustworthiness.
When a customer is dissatisfied with your product or service and does not receive adequate resolution, they may turn to social media to report their negative experience. With smartphones in almost everyone's hands, a single click can go viral in a matter of seconds, causing irreparable damage to your brand. Furthermore, news outlets may gather and publish these stories, and a negative news story is always widely circulated. For example, when the CEO of Bed, Bath and Beyond tragically passed away, news outlets extended their reporting on the company’s financial troubles, which ultimately led to their bankruptcy. This illustrates the importance of promptly addressing customer concerns to protect your brand’s reputation.
But reputational damage is not only caused by bad news. Just as we are exposed to vulnerability on the outside world, so are we online. Trademarks are not strictly monitored on the internet, allowing for customers to be easily misled into believing they are interacting with a genuine person or business. Fake goods, fake profiles, illegitimate businesses, scammers and impersonators are prevalent everywhere. For example, a fake Twitter account was created after it was purchased by Elon Musk, representing the Big Pharma company Eli Lilly. The account posted a false announcement that insulin was free which could have damaged Eli Lilly’s reputation. Fortunately, the Pharma responded immediately to negate the announcement and save its reputation.
However, protecting your brand's reputation in today's digital age requires more than just issuing a disclaimer. With the constant flow of information online, a negative situation can quickly spiral out of control and cause significant damage to your brand. As in the case of Eli Lilly, being proactive, can prevent or minimize the impact of any potential damage. Here are some guidelines from ra.poole.ncsu.edu on how to safeguard your brand's reputation and ensure long-term success.
Be proactive in monitoring all your accounts, your website, blogs, newsletters, social media and other news. This helps to find dissatisfied customers, unwanted comments, bad reviews and reduce or prevent any negatives from circulating. If you find a customer who is unhappy, immediate action should be taken. The first step is to issue a genuine apology. Second, offer a solution and follow up on that solution to demonstrate your commitment to the customer. Most of all be sincere.
In the meantime, engage in further investigating the source of the issue, whether it is internal or external. If it is internal, communication is important to correct any issues arising from within, whether it be employees, corporate, stakeholders, or investors. Everyone should be aware of and committed to upholding the company’s code of conduct and values. Poor internal working conditions, the conduct of staff, CEO or others involved in the company, can cause cultural discord or negative media coverage. An example of this occurred when an employee from Starbucks was fired. In solidarity, employees’ disaffection created negative publicity which ultimately led Starbucks to court to settle the matter.
Alternatively, other paid resources to help bury negative news can be found on-line. These help to control the narrative, remove or resolve negative reviews and promote the good ones. This can be found on Google search.
Another important aspect of reputational damage can arise from not conforming to the rules of social responsibility. Harvard Business School shows some social responsibility practices. They vary from organization to organization and are guided by “triple bottom line”, that is “profit, people, planet”. The list is as follows:
Environmental Responsibility – it means utilizing best practices to protect the environment by decreasing pollution, greenhouse gas, plastics, wastes, renewable energy, water consumption, tree planting and more.
Ethical Responsibility – operating in a fair and ethical manner with its employees, such as paying “livable wages” to employees, fair treatment given to stakeholders, leadership, investors, suppliers and customers, and outsourcing of materials should conform to free trade standards, that means products and materials should not be manufactured, assembled by slavery or child labor.
Philanthropic Responsibility – the company donates a portion of earnings to a charity of their choice, not necessarily related to their business. The general principle is not to maximize profits but to ensure its business gives back to society.
Economic Responsibility – this fall into the category of “profit, people, planet” meaning the company’s goal should be centered on spreading its profits for the benefit of society by contributing to the care of the planet, to serving humanity through charities or other methods.
Corporate social responsibility is a crucial aspect of modern branding, Companies which ignore this risk losing both respect and revenue. Furthermore, if your brand is owned by a parent company, consumers are likely to scrutinize the company’s social responsibility practices as well. According to research by Weber Shandwick and KRC 70% of people would not support a brand if its parent company fails in implementing social responsibility practices.
These are only a few examples of the potential causes and remedies for reputational damage. By understanding the impact of negative publicity and implementing effective solutions, your brand will not only achieve success but also contribute to the well-being of people and planet. Against this background, implementing good practices to protecting your brand’s reputation, is not just good for business, it is the right thing to do.