How to prevent and react to reputation crises

Table of contents


All companies should be aware of how to manage any issues that arise with their online reputation, as well as problems that arise from potential business, sales and profits. All business owners should consider taking a proactive approach to the reputation management of their brand, especially given the power of social media in today’s world. Although some companies have taken a serious approach to the management and processing of online reviews, few are really prepared for the unfortunate scenario that is a reputation crisis generated by a piece of bad press. In fact, the effects of a single article of negative press can have a lasting and devastating effect on your online brand presence. A negative article from a reputable source in the press will linger in the first page of Google results, so when potential and current clients or talented potential staff look for your business, a negative review will be the first thing they see.

Reputation crises happen more often and easily than you think

As a business owner, it is important to accept that there is always a risk of suffering from a reputational crisis. Such a crisis could stem from situations that are unfortunately difficult to predict and manage, such as a malicious hack or a data leak. This can happen to any business ( remember when British Airways became unstuck?). An online reputation can also be damaged from a badly-worded line from an executive, or a negative social media post that is subsequently picked up by the press to create a storm of criticism. A question all business owners should ask themselves is whether they can manage this type of incident if it occurred. A brand reputation crisis is capable of halving your profits for months, and requires large budgets to be carefully managed – are you ready to react quickly and minimise the impact?

Online reputation management: fixing a crisis

In order to carefully manage and deal with a reputation crisis, it is crucial to have a strong online presence, well-handled positive coverage and a crisis reaction procedure in place. Never assume that the management of a reputation crisis starts after the crisis has taken place. Of course, as soon as a press-related brand reputation crisis surfaces, it is paramount for a company to seek professional services to immediately begin countering the bad press. Be aware that it is not legally possible to remove existing bad press articles, but it is possible to build a content presence to mitigate their visibility and effect. The more a press article is viewed, the longer it will remain on top of your business SERP. So let’s work backwards step by step:

1. Having a strong reputation online is key

Having a positive and enduring online presence will ensure that your brand is able to ‘take the hit’ of a bad press episode – whether or not a reputation crisis happens. Building and maintaining a healthy online reputation will greatly benefit your business. More and more customers check a retailer’s credentials online before they intend to purchase products or services from them. Bear in mind that 90% of consumers then don’t go over the first google page when looking for something, therefore having a good reputation with positive coverage on your first page of Google SERP will aid you in achieving better, more profitable business results. This is even more relevant when negative publicity hits. Having existing, strong and reputable coverage linking to your business’ site will reduce the likelihood of a single bad press article reaching the top of your SERP (right at the top of a potential client, partner or employee’s search results).

2. Implementing a crisis management procedure

Having a strategy in place that can be acted upon when a reputation crisis hits can save you a lot of money and stress. For example, in the scenario where a small number of your customers’ personal details (including credit card details) have been stolen, and within minutes, a couple of journalists start directly calling your office, do you know how to react? Do you have a process in place? Who should talk to the press? When? What should they say? Do you have a reputation management partner ready to manage the situation on your behalf to make sure it doesn’t turn into a ‘profits bloodbath’? With so much of your brand’s perception being dependent on online reviews and visibility, are you confident that you have a reaction plan that is strong enough to diffuse some of the risks associated with a reputation crisis? A reputation management expert partner can offer to train your team and the key people within it who will be responsible for triggering a first response should a crisis occur.

3. Hopefully a crisis will never hit. But if it does, have a trusted partner onboard

An online reputation crisis must be managed by dedicated partners with strong expertise in technical SEO, content marketing and digital PR. Reputation management experts often work within specialised agencies that can provide effective support. Such agencies have the  necessary media relationships to produce coverage that can counteract any bad press, along with the Google optimisation knowledge to do so strategically.

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