Reputation is integral to power. So much depends on reputation—guard it with your life – Robert Greene
Like a magnet attracting metallic objects to itself, so is a crisis for global business managers in the age of uncertainty and disruption. That is the reason anyone with eyes on making an impact in the fast-paced global market of the 21st century must put their reputation on the front burner.
Indeed, a good reputation is a precursor and catalyst for making money, making an impact, and influencing people. Human beings of all ages patronize the people they like. Likability is tied to a good reputation.
Unfortunately, stuff and life happen. There are times you make mistakes and then all hell breaks lose, which may cause reputation damage. Then, the source of your livelihood and influence may be endangered.
When reputation is ruined, it will be very difficult to make any impact. Of course, making genuine money is certainly out of the question.
For some people and organizations, a crisis point is a point of no return – in that they would dig themselves deeper into the crisis as a result of ignorance of the right strategy needed to manage the crisis. This eventually engulfs and consumes them.
On the other hand, a crisis point is a turning point into a better realm for some people and organizations. With the dexterity and skills deployed to manage the crisis, they may turn the corner into profitability and their influence will increase.
As a business leader, you must understand that crises can break out at any point in time. The trigger may come from you or your associates, colleagues, or workers. A crisis can even be a result of a force majeure (an act of god). In the age of digital disruption, a crisis is something to be expected and prepared for. Crisis becomes more amplified with the speed of the digital age.
The advent of new media is a blessing. It can also be a beast. Careers, lives and businesses have been both lifted and ruined through social media and other new media platforms. It is a two-edged sword. Just as an image can be built quickly online, so can it be lost in the twinkle of an eye on the same platform.
Social media is not ephemeral anymore. It is now ubiquitous. Our lives are entangled with it. Mistakes made offline and away from any traditional media outlet are blown open on social media.
It, therefore, behooves you to live ready, take precautions and make necessary amends when there is a slip.
Most of the time, crises can be predicted. It can be triggered by your actions or inactions. Before a crisis strikes, it would have manifested in the form of an unpleasant occurrence that repeatedly manifests.
Those occurrences graduate into trends, then issues, before metamorphosing into full-blown crises.
Crisis trajectory goes this way: Events – Trends – Issues – Crisis
The most effective way to nip a crisis in the bud is to constantly scan the landscape for any occurrence or event that may cause a crisis. Early detection is the way to go.
Averting Or Managing Crisis
When your reputation runs into stormy waters in the course of your career or in your business, do not despair. There is a way out. With strategic crisis communication, you can manage the situation adequately and come out sparkling.
The following are some of the points you need to know in order to avert or manage a crisis:
1. Identify your weaknesses and threats
Most executives are familiar with conducting a SWOT analysis on themselves and their organizations. The revelation is that what is highlighted as weaknesses and threats are signals to your Achilles’ heels – weak points – which may likely cause a crisis for your career or organization.
For instance, if one of the weaknesses you discovered when you did a SWOT analysis on your organization is a constant disregard for customer’s satisfaction, you will discover that sooner or later, your organization will be in crisis.
2. Be in crisis mode
Being in crisis mode means you need to stay alert for any reputational red flag. As the chief reputation manager of your own career or business, your antenna must be active to pick anything that would bring you into disrepute and quickly deal with it.
Simulating your response to likely situations will help you adequately respond to a crisis when it breaks out. Before or when things go wrong, you need to be proactive and address the situation before it virals out of control. Before a crisis strikes, prep your team for any eventualities. Simulate any known situation that may occur and designate roles for each member of your team in such scenarios.
Being in crisis mode is about preparation. Create a playbook that covers how to interact with the media, the kind of holding statement to draft that would satisfy the insatiable demand for information by journalists, bloggers, and online media audiences in times of crisis.
3. Online media monitoring
Setting up online media monitoring will help you to quickly swing into action when your name is mentioned anywhere online. Speed is of the essence in the game to subdue crises.
Monitoring tools will crawl blogs, social media updates, forums, etc., and alert you if anything is written about you. The monitoring tools are sophisticated to the extent that they can determine if those mentions are positive or negative.
There are free and premium versions of online media monitoring websites and software. Free versions have limited functionality, while you can do more with the paid versions. A growing organization can make do with the free version.
4. Don’t bury the truth
The subject of truth is sensitive in times of crisis. As a crisis looms, truth often becomes the casualty. Don’t fall for the temptation. Your watchword during a time of crisis should be “truth”. Never sacrifice the truth for anything. Resist the temptation to overly spin the issue. Say the truth and expect the truth to set you free.
Saying the truth may not sound appealing when you are going through a crisis, but at the end of the day, you will thank God you stuck to the truth. If you don’t say the truth and the truth is later discovered, your credibility will be called into question.
5. Get allies to push your message
In times of crisis, you need all the resources you can lay your hands on. Friends and allies are needed in times of crisis. Bring them closer so that they can help push your message beyond the reach of the actions of your detractors.
6. Apologies swiftly, don’t apportion blame
The easiest thing to do in times of crisis is to apportion blame. Apportioning blame will inflame the crisis. Apologize swiftly in times of crisis. Apologizing will go a long way towards soothing frayed nerves. An apology is the first step in changing the tide of the crisis.
7. Social media playbook
Social media has changed our lives. The force of social media can be for good or bad. In tackling the crisis raging online, after apologizing, find a way to take the complainer offline. Get on the phone immediately with the person complaining.
Depending on the severity of the crisis, you may need to put a stop to all scheduled posts, ads, marketing emails, and blog posts and direct all energy towards tackling the crisis. If you must post on any of your online platforms in times of crisis, let it be content that speaks to the crisis and not overtly promotional content.
8. Create talking points
Talking points will allow your team to stay on message. Without strategic talking points, a barrage of questions from the media would toss you back and forth.
9. Assemble your team
At times, it is necessary to constitute a team to manage your image. Two heads, they say, are better than one. The team should be led by a PR and communication strategist.
In constituting your team, it is important to have someone with legal background and knowledge. However, ensure that the lawyer doesn’t make the final decision. The way a lawyer thinks is usually different from the way a PR professional thinks.
In times of crisis, a thoroughbred PR professional on your team will take a cue from best practices by telling the right story to soothe frayed nerves, telling it fast on different platforms, and telling the truth.
That said, reputation management is not a walk in the park. It takes continuous and consistent communication and messaging. Managing one’s reputation takes nurturing. It takes planning and strategic thinking. It takes time and energy.
If you have an eye on becoming an international business executive, a politician or taking your career onto the global stage, the service of an erudite reputation manager is of the utmost essence.
The Place of Reputation Manager
When fishing for a reputation manager, keep in mind that you need a well-rounded person. You must engage someone who not only has knowledge of traditional and new media but also understands the principles of strategy, war, and battle.
You need someone who understands the trends in local and global business, politics, and economics. You need a reputation manager who is also a strategist. You need someone who is dynamic. You need someone with the heart of a lion.
A good reputation manager is strategic in shaping your reputation in the eyes of your target audience, customers, clients, electorates, and, by implication, your profit and making money in your business or victory in politics as a politician.
Reputation managers are ‘super-human’. They carry the shield of their principal in difficult terrain, protecting their principal from every attack. They clear the mess created either by commission or omission. If they are not on the offensive, they are on the defensive for the sake of their principal. I call them burden-bearers.
A reputation manager who knows his worth is always on the offensive and in perpetual crisis mode, even if all look rosy at the moment. S/he is always scanning the terrain to see any booby traps laid ahead for the principal. S/he detects hotspots and diffuses them before they snowball.
The reputation manager is the master of the strategy game. You need one to wade through successfully on the global business and political terrain. And this is important – don’t just have a decorative reputation manager; listen to his/her advice. It’s why you hired them in the first place.