How prepared are you for a business reputation crisis?
Do you have a crisis management team already in place? Or would any crisis response be on the fly?
Plan your crisis response now
Our experience has shown us that it is categorically better to have a crisis management strategy in place before the crisis hits.
In other words, prevention is always better than cure when it comes to crisis management.
What’s the worst that can happen without a crisis management plan?
A reputation crisis can hit you hard. And in ways that you may not have even thought of.
From impacting sales and business growth to stalling business recovery, and from deterring existing and prospective clients, a reputation crisis can do a lot of damage.
Ultimately, the types of crisis scenarios the team at Igniyte have seen over the years had enormous potential to damage our client’s relationships not only with their customers, but also their stakeholders, shareholders and investors.
Is it really worth having a crisis management plan in place?
If you’re thinking that an organizational crisis simply won’t happen to your or your business, you should know that statistically it could.
In a survey, we found that almost half of the companies we spoke to are being damaged by negative online content.
Data also shows that the damage and stress caused by a reputational crisis is increasing every year.
What are the odds you’ll lose business from negative online coverage?
While some business owners or senior management may not be overly concerned about negative social media content or unwanted coverage in industry news.
However, the potential risks for a negative impact loom large in today’s largely online world.
Just one negative article online, whether that’s through private sector media or a link on social media, can lose a business 22% of business.
Increase that to four or more negative pieces of coverage and you have an actual crisis, with the potential loss of 70% due to the organization’s reputation.
So, while a natural disaster or a technological crisis may already be part of a crisis management plan, the crisis response must also include reputational damage.
Proactive reputation management and crisis management will mean that you stand to lose far less than you would without.
9 steps to your reputation and crisis management plan
Our advice is to create a crisis management and reputation management plan.
The following actionable steps will mean your business will have clear guidelines to follow if and when a crisis occurs.
Some of these steps are very similar to the types of crisis response that comes with events like a natural disaster. Others are specifically geared towards a crisis management strategy for a reputational issue in particular.
To ensure crisis management plans reflect the business in the best way, ensure that crisis management teams are in place.
This is a key part of any crisis response to a reputational problem.
Ideally, this should form part of your risk management so that you can avoid the worst of any crisis situation.
An online reputation audit aims to produce an accurate picture of what people see when they search your name or your business name online.
It should include everything from media coverage to social media posts, online forums, images, videos and profiles.
When a potential customer searches your business name, you want them to see positive links.
If your business has poor online visibility, no accurate social media strategy, poor public relations coverage or negative news stories, then these serve as early warning signals.
The data gathered through a properly managed reputation audit will then inform any response strategy to potential crisis events.
This kind of risk management can be woven into crisis management plans. It’s impossible to have one without the other, as any crisis response will inevitably draw more eyes to your online profile.
With a strong underlying crisis management process, it’s far simpler to stave off potential crises before they badly impact the organization.
Understanding SEO for online reputation management
Part of a pre-emptive crisis management plan should be to work on your online reputation management (ORM).
From the audit mentioned above, a good crisis manager will build a strong ORM plan also.
And part of the success of any ORM strategy lies in a good understanding of SEO (search engine optimisation).
ORM shouldn’t be considered optional (just as devising a crisis management plan shouldn’t).
Consumers tend to trust user-generated content such as online reviews or negative links. And, according to BrightLocal consumer survey research, 82% of consumers specifically look for online reviews of local businesses before using them.
However, simply highlighting positive content doesn’t guarantee that people will see it. This is why you also need strategic SEO to properly rank positive content.
The most successful ORM strategies include ranking articles, websites, blogs and videos that all work together to highlight your company’s strengths.
Importance of owned assets
By owned assets we mean profiles on high traction websites, such as LinkedIn and Crunchbase as well as your own website.
These should be included in your ORM strategy and will also help to build up your crisis management plan.
With strong SEO and professionally constructed content strategies using owned links and assets, any reputational crisis that hits will be much easier to deal with.
Without a strong package of online assets, your brand or business will suffer from reputational damage. Consumers know what they want to see from a business and expect it from a company’s normal operations.
Listen to customers
Online sales increased to a 13 year high in the first year of the pandemic, and have continued to rise ever since.
And while e-commerce has completely altered the way people shop, evaluate and discover new brands and businesses, word of mouth is still key.
It’s just that word of mouth is now in the form of online reviews, consumer forums, blogs and other channels.
There is no room for error in this area and it’s vital to include monitoring tools in your ORM and crisis management plans.
You need to know what customers say and think about you, and reputation experience management tools are key.
Staving off a major crisis that could badly impact your business could be as simple as tracking negative reviews and interacting with the people who have left them.
This kind of crisis preparedness relies on excellent ORM and awareness of the importance of social media channels and review platforms.
Review management strategy
Alerts and social listening tools as outlined above lead us on to the next part of crisis management – a review management strategy.
In the same was a reputation audit gathers crucial data for use by your crisis manager, a review management strategy will provide other data.
By putting in place crisis management strategies that include both reputation management and review management, you will ensure that no stone is left unturned.
With all of these strategies in place, a crisis team ready to go at any moment and buy-in from team members and key stakeholders, you should have a robust crisis management model in place.
Should a reputational crisis situation occur (for example, a corporate crisis involving negative coverage of management misconduct), your organization’s response will be calm and collected.
This will go a long way to minimise long-term reputational damage and may lead to a public relations exercise that turns the entire situation around.
Recovery efforts should be part of contingency planning right from the start. After all, it’s not possible to totally rule out future crisis situations. But it is possible to avoid the worst of a corporate crisis through judicious risk assessment and a successful crisis response plan.
Positive content creation
Content remains king in 2022. And while businesses can’t actively control customer-generated reviews (it’s all in the response when a crisis hits), they can control their own content strategy.
This feeds into SEO and the overall ORM plans that we have been discussing.
Content must be relevant, optimised, totally unique and, most of all, authentic.
It’s not about keyword stuffing or content creation to fill pages – it’s about timely, effective, targeted and high quality content creation.
That’s what will be picked up by search engines and customers alike.
Secure press opportunities
Actively building positive public relations through media opportunities should form part of your SEO strategy.
The more positive and relevant media coverage of your business, the stronger the crisis management team will be in the face of a crisis situation.
Effective crisis management starts way before any crisis strikes. Being proactive about creating a solid online reputation will go a very long way to mitigating any crisis phase.
And public relations reach out is very much part of this.
Responding to crisis
Ideally, the crisis team is already in place when crisis strikes.
The crisis management plan should be ready to implement, and will inevitably include strategic internal and external communications.
Crisis communication is absolutely vital in minimising the long-term impact on an individual or organization’s reputation.
Team members across the organization should be part of the crisis response team so that there is a clear approach.
A crisis communication plan should also inform employees of the situation. They may not be directly involved in the crisis plan itself, but they are parts of the same journey.
From executive management level to other key stakeholders, it’s important to have a cohesive, calm and strategic approach to any incident response.
The way in which the company responds to the crisis phase will then inform the kinds of post crisis coverage.