How to Repair a Damaged Reputation
Reputation management is the practice of identifying an exceptional brand value and promoting which value strategically and intentionally within a target market. For the majority of my customers, the objective of the reputation-management work is to increase their market visibility and earnings. Alternately, it may be to create a credible brand at a new and expanding market or even construct a new target market.
Reputation management also has reputation repair. Most men and women believe that only politicians and celebrities who misstep or becoming caught in compromising situations need to worry about their reputation, but in fact, everyone from college students to senior executives must mind the way that they are perceived and — even when a destructive event does occur — correct a damaged private brand.
As a professional in reputation management and personal branding, I routinely get inquiries regarding reputation repair from prospective clients around the world. In recent weeks I’ve received questions from:
The press took his narrative and can be running on the daily news
A business executive who admits to being a Social Networking novice and has been assaulted by his more social-savvy competitor who is spreading rumors online about his credibility and track record
A property tycoon outside of the United States who has been accused of impropriety by her colleagues and ousted from the business she founded
When these instances may seem extreme, public humiliation and reputation sabotage can and do occur. I frequently work with authorized organizations, public relations professionals and even boards of directors since I work to deal with the public perception of high-profile people. Regardless of the individual circumstances, for a reputation-repair situation here are the steps I take:
1. Assess the damage
In some cases, my customers become mad over nasty remarks posted on the web, in the networking or around their network. Then, once we assess perception in critical markets, we find that the comments are viewed as only gossip and ill will, and have not impacted my customer’s credibility or business value.
In cases of online reputation attacks which do damage authenticity, the measurement and evaluation of the damage must occur in the correct context. If my client initiated a light conversation, and online audiences reacted negatively, we must evaluate the cost of that negative feedback concerning the perception of my client as a provocative thought leader.
2. Calculate your level of control
On the way, it’s important to understand what we have control over and that which we must leave. On the internet, we see lots of instances of “mob mentality,” where one individual arouses fury and many others pile on fast and recklessly. It has been the situation for many of my customers, and while the mob may proceed to a different cause after a while… my client’s reputation is left in shambles.
Many crisis-communications professionals counsel customers to not take part in online battles — because of the numerous unknowns and variables. That approach must be weighed against doing nothing and being seen as complacent and weak. In assessing a response, we must look at what we can control: our activities and behavior, but not the actions of others. If I have the opportunity to talk about my client’s side of the story, I will opt to do that in a controlled way, through a press conference, a website post, or a letter to an editor, instead of a Facebook post.
3. Think ‘big picture
If the damage is significant and the choices to control and redirect the eye look slim, assessing long-term consequences becomes necessary. For a single client, rebuilding his reputation meant starting within his field. That said working for agencies below his capabilities and re-earning the confidence of key stakeholders to reconstruct his authenticity and articulate his values to people who bought from him.
Without this plan, he’d have been at risk of running into resistance from individuals who knew about him just in the news.
In another case, a client might choose to relocate their loved ones, change careers or change names, based on the long-term effect of the damage done. These are extreme measures which need to be considered only in the cutest cases. In other instances, calculated and deliberate new re-building may make more sense, professionally and personally.
In the long run, reputation repair is not for the faint of heart — it requires a serious and thoughtful strategy. A reputation relies on perception, behavior, and values. While there are online solutions, PR remedies and media tactics to deploy, the real work of rebuilding trust and credibility starts, and ends, with the private brand.