The Dissident Spin Doctor: Four steps to avoiding a reputational s**tstorm
by Emma King (@EmmainSA) Over the past month, the industry has been atwitter with whispers about hummingbirds and tales about errant Loeries. All very exciting for us armchair critics as we sit back with our popcorn and pontificate about how we would have handled it differently.
But once we’re in that seat, when the proverbial shit hits the fan, what would we do differently?
Well, first of all, as I would tell clients facing a reputational crisis, don’t get into that position in the first place.
Often I’ve been asked to develop a statement or response to an issue in the media by a desperate client wanting to hush something up, but I truly believe that a business needs to looks at why the issue has blown up, and make real business changes to rectify it.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many Band Aids you put over a festering wound, if you don’t sort out the problem at the source.
Set in stone
Nevertheless, sometimes a business does get caught in turmoil — whether its own fault or not — and there are some hard-and-fast rules we share that are pretty much set in stone.
In these cases, ducking, diving, getting aggressive and pointing the finger at others can only do harm. It looks shifty and is, in any case, distasteful.
“But what,” I’ve been asked, “should a brand do, if they have done something wrong? Should they admit to it, or try to deflect the attention?”
Never, ever lie
Well, the first is never, ever lie. You WILL be found out and then the consequences are even worse. Human nature is such that is can forgive an error — but it’s much harder to forgive someone who lies or who doesn’t take responsibility for what they have done. Nothing is more disdainful than someone who tries to lie to get out of a situation.
There are some simple things that should be done which have proved, time and time again, to be more effective ways of dealing with a reputational storm.
- First of all, don’t do it! A business with a strong reputation (which always effect the bottom line), is one that doesn’t cover up dodgy business practices.
- Always accept responsibility and admit to what has been done wrong — the whole truth!
- Apologise! Humbly.
- Explain what you are doing to fix it. And then do it.
Sounds simple? It is.