Communications   Crisis

Crisis management is reputation management

September 20, 2022

When you think about developing your organization’s brand, you might want to jump head-first into the fun stuff that makes you unique: the perfect logo, a dynamic website, a snappy slogan. All those elements are important. But in our fast-paced, attention-grabbing world, your reputation is one of your company’s most valuable assets. It takes considerable time and thought to build and nurture a brand that can withstand a threat or crisis.  

While putting in the effort to prepare for and communicate through consequential events may not be the most glamorous part of the job, proactive reputation management helps you weather the storm, defend your brand and come out stronger on the other side. 

The question isn’t whether your company will face a crisis. In one form or another, you will. The question is: what actions will you take when it happens? 

Crisis management is a chance to identify opportunities to defend your reputation, maintain or build back trust with stakeholders and shape the narrative. Every crisis requires a unique and tailored approach, which is why we’ve identified best practices for determining a smart path forward when the waters get choppy. In tough times, DH has your back. 

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Plan ahead
The last thing you want is to get caught flat-footed. It’s possible to plan for a crisis, to an extent, especially when you have a designated crisis management team trained and ready for action. We recommend conducting annual exercises to test your plan and your team. This should include a proactive crisis plan that gives you a strategic head start when you need to move quickly.

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Make the right diagnosis
All crises are not created equal. A key practice of reputation management is to determine the type of event and gauge a proportional response.It could be a nuisance (unwanted attention); a crisis (acute program that generates negative media attention), or a full-blown chronic problem (deep-seeded issue that threatens the organization’s future). Knowing the size of the problem will help you develop an effective plan.

Use the time (and allies) you have
A strong strategy for a crisis has three ingredients: The right message, at the right time, through the right medium. Although timeliness matters, it’s better to be right than fast. Listen early and often to those around you and develop an initial response that’s clear, consistent and informative. And be sure to include your third-party advocates – they’re critical for building back trust and defending your reputation. 

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Be authentic 
Your brand depends on a deep connection with your audience. They can tell when you’re being genuine, and when you’re not. Tell the truth about the situation and apologize when necessary. Apologizing does not admit guilt or convey weakness.  Rather, it demonstrates empathy, transparency and candor at a sensitive time. Come clean and take your lumps so you can move forward and tell your story.  

Key Takeaways
  1. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy or set of tactics to manage a crisis. Planning can help ensure your authentic voice comes through.
  2. Crises don’t happen in a vacuum. Many factors come into play when managing crises, including current events and public opinion. Consider how the world around you might influence the outcome when developing a plan.
  3. Tell your story. Part of managing through a crisis is driving the narrative and telling your story. If you don’t, someone will and that can create new challenges. 
  4. You’re not alone. Engage your champions and partners who have your back and can help build back trust.

Your reputation is often defined by how you handle your worst days. With a little preparation, you can meet those challenges with a strategy that represents your values and brand. 

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If you need help working through communications strategy, media engagement or audience engagement during this time, give us a call. We’re happy to talk strategy and help.

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