Reputation recovery 101 after a social media disaster
Priya Florence Shah
May 11, 2017

Kindness matters, in life and in business. Showing a lack of kindness can land a business or a brand in hot water with consumers and the media. Recent actions by American businessman Martin Shkreli, and United Airlines CEO, Oscar Munoz, prove this point.

And, trouble doesn't just surface because everyone has a smartphone and everything can be recorded and shared. It’s because kindness trumps the alternative.

Brands need to remember,  everything boils down to relationships. All relationships are built on a foundation of kindness and compassion, which helps keep people together during tough times.

When Shkreli hiked the price for the drug Daraprim by 5,000%, and defended a 500% price hike of the lifesaving EpiPen device, he became the “most hated man in America.”

Likewise, the apology issued by Munoz on behalf of United Airlines was viewed as half-hearted, coming after the airline experienced a loss of $1 billion in market cap.

If your company had to recover from such a beating like these brands took on social media, could you handle it?

I hope so, but just in case here are some tips on how to recover your reputation on social media, if you’ve made a gaffe of epic proportions.

 

1. Apologize… and mean it.

In times of crisis, your apology… your first and very public one… must be genuine and heartfelt. There’s no shame in admitting that you’ve erred. On the other hand, trying to power through without a genuine apology can cause your brand a great deal of damage.

The internet is very forgiving of corporations that apologize sincerely to their stakeholders and customers, such as when Apple CEO Tim Cook apologized for the glitches with Apple’s Maps app.

2. Follow it up with action
Top management is usually responsible for creating a corporate culture that exists, so don’t hesitate to hold them responsible for a PR disaster.

Show your stakeholders and customers that you mean business and demand accountability from your employees, as well. This could mean firing workers on the ground or firing the CEO.

3. Make amends
Being deliberately unkind or dismissive of customers who were hurt by your actions makes an organization look like it refuses to take responsibility for its dealings. There are often real-world consequences for a lack of remorse in such situations. It make more sense to spend a few thousand dollars while making amends, than to possibly lose a few billion through loss of credibility and public sentiment.

4. Change your policies
When you’ve experienced a social media or public relations disaster, take it as a call to change your policies from the top down. This might mean revisiting all your customer service rules, as well as your management’s response to a crisis. Listen to what your customers are saying  to learn how to prevent future crises, or deal with them as they occur.

If this means rewriting your entire corporate rule book to empower employees on the ground to make decisions that were only reserved for their superiors, so be it.

4. Do the right thing… every time
There are few things that will help you create loyalty, whether in your personal or business relationships, than doing right by your people.

Whether it involves your employees or your customers, doing the right thing, whether it’s profitable or not, will help you win hearts - and positive social media sentiment - every time.

As an example of how that works, see how Southwest Airlines did everything in its power to help a mother in need, and earned some brownie points on social media as a result of its actions.

In a crisis, it’s not trite or corny to follow the advice from Disney's Cinderella: “Have courage and be kind.”  Do that and all you’ll lose is your damaged reputation.

 

Priya Florence Shah is an author, online publisher, social media marketer and CEO of Blog Brandz. Follow her on Twitter at @PriyaFlorence