Technology has made the world a much smaller place than it used to be. Before social media and the invention of the Internet, a company’s reputation was based on primarily local reception and word-of-mouth within the community. Now, a 24/7 media cycle and fast-paced social media environment have raised the stakes.
This is a double-edged sword. Terrible, unethical companies can finally get the boot. But good companies also can have their reputation dragged through the mud. And once you’re in the mud, it’s an uphill battle to get clean again in the eyes of the public.
Take a great example from Taco Bell back in 2011. The fast food joint faced heavy scrutiny over claims that their “seasoned beef” was actually only 35% real beef. It went public and the backlash was severe. Even though the suit was dropped soon after, the company was still left reeling in the aftermath of such negative coverage. Their reputation had taken a serious hit.
Kudos to the PR professionals over at Taco Bell who devised this ad campaign as a response. The “Would it kill you to say you’re sorry?” campaign included full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, and other local papers.
Few companies can afford such a huge paid media push, however, and often it’s not worth the effort to draw so much attention to negative news. Instead, companies need to think strategically about how they manage their reputation.
- Have a stockpile of goodwill
Reputation management isn’t just responding to bad publicity when it happens. It’s preventing it in the first place. Build up your company reputation as a force for good. This includes social responsibility programs, sponsorships in your local community, and regular press releases and other communication with stakeholders.
- Be open and honest
Be as transparent as possible with the media, your shareholders, and your customers. You don’t have to draw as much attention to negative press as Taco Bell, but you can’t ignore it or try to suppress it. In the age of the Internet, that will only make things worse. Take Barbra Streisand’s word for it. When the actress discovered photos of her house published on a Malibu photographer’s website, she sued to have them taken down. These weren’t just paparazzi photos, however, the photographer ran the California Coastal Records Project and was tasked with taking aerial shots of the California coastline. Streisand’s house just happened to be in the shots. Nevertheless, Streisand sued for $50 million, claiming she didn’t want photos of her private property publicly available.
The press found out about the lawsuit quickly and the story took off. Before word got out, those photos were viewed a grand total of six times. After, the views numbered in the millions. The moral of the story: sometimes trying to hide something just makes it more visible.
- Stay in touch
It’s the company’s job to bridge the gap. It’s not the media’s job. And it’s certainly not the public’s job. If you want people to think about you differently, understand what they are saying. Use social media listening tools and track changes in your online reputation. Then, build marketing or public relations campaigns around those results to bolster the positive and push back against the negative.
These are just a few simple tips. Do you still have questions? Get in touch with the Novitas team and learn more about how you can create, maintain, or improve your company’s public image.