Wrangling your reputation when things go awry 

You’ve likely heard of reputation management, or its virtual cousin, online reputation management or ORM. Reputation management aims to limit the amount of damage caused by an unfortunate incident by taking active steps to avoid a foreseeable problem. Or, to cool a situation down once it occurs. The hope, of course, is that your reputation will not sustain lasting damage. And it won’t, if you do it right.

How a business or organization responds to controversy tells a lot about their brand. Think about your business as a person. If you get it wrong, are criticized, or make a public error, do you get defensive and deny it or ignore that it’s happening? Or do you show your human side, and:

  1. Own it
  2. Apologize for it
  3. Tell why it won’t happen again

At Jet, we believe in taking the human approach to rep management. While people might still be upset, they’ll appreciate that you took the high road and owned your mistake and are willing to change, thereby keeping your integrity—and your reputation—intact.

Here’s a real live example of this playing out. Jackie, our beloved leader, recently ordered a dress for a special occasion from Nordstrom Rack. While usually prompt, this time things went wrong. Here’s the email she received. They followed Jet’s 3 rep management steps to a T:

I am truly sorry, Jackie. Why you are seeing what you are seeing is that we are experiencing some delays in our shipping. (1. Own it) I fully understand your pain and frustration with the delay, this was a very embarrassing situation for us to be in. (2. Apologize for it) Because of this embarrassment, we are directing all of our resources to repair the current backlog, as well as make sure that we are planning better for the future. We want to make sure that you will never have to worry about our ability to ship your orders in a timely fashion again. (3. Tell why it won’t happen again)

Our 3 steps apply mostly to errors and problems, so we employ other rep management techniques—such as being up front, honest and inclusive, responding quickly, and softening the blow with good prep work—in other situations.

At Jet, we help our clients with rep management on an ongoing basis. We’ve helped troubleshoot data breaches, cool down public outcry on dollars spent, unify employees around new names and logos, instill confidence after past errors, and prepare neighbors for new development projects.

Here are three examples:

New look, simplified

One of our clients had the same logo and look & feel since they opened in the 80s. Leaders were hesitant to make a change for fear the public or employees of this small town wouldn’t like it or see it as necessary. We helped them succeed by including employees in planning the public open house that unveiled the new look, and by holding a pre-event for employees—with special gifts bearing the new logo—before the public open house began. At the employee event, we included a FAQ on why the new look was needed, how it better reflected who they were today, and how it was paid for out of the general budget. We also included a talking points sheet for employees to use with the public to explain the change. This meant the message would be consistent. By being upfront about the need for the change and softening the blow by including employees in the process, the transition was not only smooth, but fun. Giving out teddy bears to the first 100 kids who came didn’t hurt, either.

Videos pave the way

One of our larger hospitals is located in an area where the economy is down. With many people out of work, it seemed a bad time for the hospital to spend money on renovations, but

they were sorely needed. The patient rooms had not been updated for 30 years and were small, outdated and ill-equipped. At the same time, hospital leaders were receiving feedback from surveys that the hospital spent money unnecessarily. To shift that reputation, and to bring home the need for the renovations, the hospital included patients and employees in the design of the new rooms. We proposed creating videos to run on their website, at events, and also as clips on social media sites that showed employees and patients explaining the need. Doing so created buy in by showing the human side of the project—hearing friends and neighbors tell how the renovations improved care and comfort for patients.

Data breach, bettered

Another client experienced a data breach which became public. We got the call after hours, but we were able to talk through our 3 steps, and provided language to use in response to social media posts—recommending they respond to each and every email received. We also recommended a temporary hotline for people to call and ask questions and talk through concerns.

Hopefully you won’t find yourself in need for rep management anytime soon, but if you do, apply Jet’s 3 steps or give us a call for help.

 

 


3Lynn Nichols, Copywriter, Publication Specialist

Lynn once sent her ‘out of office’ message to everyone on her email list by mistake. She managed this error with a red face, a follow-up apology, a sleepless night and a vow to never set an ‘out of office’ message again.


Protecting your Brand against the Unknown

Writing this blog was not on my “to-do” list until news of Hurricane Harvey. Current events spark conversation, so this seemed timely. It is not without sensitivity to those who have lost loved ones or who are dealing with loss of all unimaginable kinds.


The recent events in Houston invoke all types of emotions, by those directly and indirectly affected. For me, the current event was bone chilling because I spent the summer reading 5 Days at Memorial, by Pulitzer Prize author Sheri Fink.

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The book is a real-life account of the 5 days at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. The first half of the book paints the picture of a flooded basement that contained the emergency generator, a helipad that was in disrepair, a lack of electricity, plumbing, food and a lot of patients at various levels of health.

People died. Some on their own, some with the help of physician-directed medication. Healthcare professionals were saddled with a hopeless situation and delivered compassion in the form of dosages of lethal medication as they deemed necessary.

The second half of the book details the litigation that followed those difficult life-ending decisions. Everyone accused was eventually acquitted and the exercise prompted immunity laws that protect workers in an emergency situation today.

The epilogue was maybe the most powerful portion of the book. It reviewed not only disasters in third world countries when medical resources have to be rationed, but also situations like Hurricane Sandy and the Ebola patient at Texas Health in Dallas. It included discussion of ethics and the possible biases of having a limited resource distribution protocol in place. “Fifty patients, six outlets. How do you decide?” — was a quote from the book referring to a real-life situation when all fifty patients needed to be on ventilators.

A thought provoking read and history does, tragically, repeat itself.

What does this have to do with protecting your brand? Nobody can predict a natural disaster, but everyone can make an intentional effort to plan for the worst and practice their crisis plan. The lawyers in 5 Days at Memorial asked hospital executives for their crisis plan — a show of due diligence.

Your communications team needs to be part of the team crafting your crisis plan. Who will talk to the media? Where will press conferences be held? What is the message and talking points? Do you have press release templates and up-to-date media distribution lists?

What are smaller and more likely worst-case scenarios that might affect your business? Maybe it’s a theft, power outage, server failure or more snow than your employees can plow through.

Take some intentional time and brainstorm with your team. Make a list:

  • What could happen?
  • How would we respond to an event?
  • What can we do proactively now to minimize the effects of an event?
  • What is our chain of communication?
  • What/When/How do we inform our customers?

Read about other crisis situations, learn from their successes and failure. Remember Tylenol? Uber? Samsung? Wells Fargo? There are many examples of how the actions of others or actions of your internal staff can damage your brand.

My rule of thumb for a crisis response:

  1. Accept responsibility (not applicable in a natural disaster) — State what happened, clearly and honestly
  2. Apologize — We are very sorry for . . .
  3. Explain how it won’t happen again — new training, education or new processes in place — and set those changes in motion

Brands are an investment, and a good brand reputation can be quickly lost whether it’s the fault of something in your control or not. Nothing brings that home more profoundly than a tragic event. With Harvey on our minds, now is as good a time as any to be prepared.

Sending our prayers for those in Houston.